The first time Hunter Holloway saw a recording of Pepita Con Spita jumping around a course, she knew she’d found a special animal.
“When I saw the video I thought, ‘I love it. I don’t know if I can ride it, but it’s going to be a really nice type,’ ” she recalled. “She’s really developed more and more scope the longer I’ve had her, and she’s really grown into herself. I always believed in the scope—and it was there—but I think people watching her were like, ‘How much is really in the tank?’ And she’s proven it time and time again that she has all the scope you could want and more to spare.”
She’ll show off that talent during the first senior championship for both Holloway and the 11-year-old Westphalian mare (DSP Con Spirit—Pamina, Come On) at the upcoming Longines FEI World Cup Show Jumping Final, which runs April 6-10 in Leipzig, Germany.
“Pepita” and Holloway, Topeka, Kansas, paired up right after the winter season in 2019, and they had a breakout year in 2021. They started the season by racking up three grand prix wins during the HITS Ocala (Florida) circuit, then they scored their first Fédération Equestre Internationale grand prix win in the $73,000 Tryon Resort Grand Prix CSI2* (North Carolina) in May. It was the first of 10 FEI wins that year, including topping the Longines FEI Las Vegas CSI-W Grand Prix, Holloway’s first win in a World Cup Qualifier.
That win helped earn the pair a ticket to Leipzig, and it got Holloway, 24, her sought-after pinque coat.
We sat down with Holloway at the end of the HITS Ocala circuit to find out what Pepita is like when the tack comes off.
• She’s got a few nicknames.
In addition to Pepita, she also goes by “Princess,” “Pea” and “Princess Pea,” as she’s the unofficial princess of the barn.
• She doesn’t live up to the mare stereotype—much.
“When she’s in heat, she’s not swishing her tail or acting cranky,” said Holloway. “But acting very above people is her general go-to.
“The only time she’s excited to see us is if we have food, but she’s not mean,” she continued. “You can see she just checks it out: ‘Hi, how are you? You don’t have food for me? I’ll go back to eating my hay.’ ”
• She has a best friend.
Pepita adores another of Holloway’s grand prix partners, Eastern Jam.
“She and ‘Jam’ love each other because they travel together and do everything together,” Holloway said. “They love each other and are so attached.”
• The key to a happy Pepita? Lots of turnout.
Her daily routine includes being ridden once or twice a day and spending hours in the paddock.
“Turnout is really good for her mentally, I’ve noticed. She kind of needs that decompression time. At first she was awful at turnout. She would sit there and pace—hated it—and I was like, ‘You need this. How am I going to get you to calm down out here?’ ”
The answer was simple: turn her out with her best buddy Eastern Jam in the same paddock.
“One day I had them on the ground and slowly got them closer and closer together,” Holloway recalled. “I was like, ‘He’s not going to hurt her; he’ll just go on the other side of the pasture.’ So I bit the bullet and tried them one day, and they love each other. It’s been so much better for her mentally. She goes out there, munches hay for a while and really enjoys herself. They are so cute together.”
• She’s a fan of a good roll.
“She is the messiest horse ever,” Holloway said. “We should be sponsored by Quic Silver at this point—the amount of Quic Silver we go through is insane. She loves to be green. Keeping her clean is a full-time job.”
Pepita gets a tail bag on right after a bath to keep it from getting filthy, “Otherwise it won’t last an hour,” Holloway said.
• She’s an easy keeper.
“She keeps herself pretty chunky,” Holloway said. “She gets half a scoop of [Purina] Ultium then some alfalfa cubes wetted down throughout the day. She does get tummy medicine to keep her tummy happy because of all the traveling we do. We try to stay on top of that so they never get to where they’re uncomfortable.”
• She’s lacking in the forelock department.
“She’s never had one,” Holloway said. “We just put a bonnet on her.”
• She’s not too spooky.
While other horses at the Live Oak International (Florida) were nervous about the carriages, she just paused while hacking to take a better look then continued on her way.
“She’s a vey observant horse,” said Holloway. “She loves to watch and take it all in, but she’s never one to spook. She just sits there and watches it. She’d never misbehave.”
• She likes to show off her tongue.
“People are always like, ‘You know her tongue’s out, right?’ and I’m like, ‘Yup! Sure do,’ ” Holloway said. “It’s always out—you put a bit in her mouth, and it’s always out. I show her in a very loose noseband. She just seems to enjoy it. She’s a happy horse, so I don’t care.”