Stella Artois is large and in charge at Jennie Brannigan’s barn. The 12-year-old Hanoverian mare (Satisfaction I—Comtess, Contender) has earned her place at the top of Brannigan’s string over the years, winning the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI3*-L (Maryland) in 2016 and the 2019 Rebecca Farm CCI4*-L (Montana).
Brannigan’s had the mare since she was going novice, and groom, Tyler Held, has cared for “Toddie” since March 2019.
“We kind of joke that she would be a varsity volleyball player if she was a high school student,” said Held. “She’s just kind of the popular kid. She can be a little bossy and a little bit hard to manage on the ground sometimes, but I think now that I’ve been grooming for her for over a year, we have quite a strong relationship. She likes her people, and I’m her person. She’s pretty snuggly.”
We caught up with Held and Toddie at the MARS Great Meadow International (Virginia) in August, where Brannigan and the mare finished seventh in the CCI4*-S.
• Like a fine wine, Toddie has mellowed with age and experience. “She’s really chilled out, especially in the past couple of years with Jennie,” said Held. “When Jennie won Fair Hill on her before I started working for her, they couldn’t get her to stand in the winning circle for the pictures. She had to keep circling. But she’s really coming into her own this year.
“When we were overseas at Boekelo [the Netherlands], and I went in the morning, she was completely passed out in her stall taking good naps,” said Held of their trip for the FEI Nations Cup in 2019.
• Toddie’s favorite treat is a powdered donut.
• At home, Toddie’s best buddy is one of Brannigan’s advanced horses, FE Lifestyle. “Right now she goes out with FE Lifestyle,” said Held. “They’re good paddock mates. She definitely does not like to be left alone. I definitely can’t leave her alone on the horse trailer. She needs her friends and her people. She can go places alone, but it’s the leaving friends that she doesn’t like.”
• Toddie enjoys her vacations at Tim and Nina Gardner’s farm in Pennsylvania. The Gardners are longtime supporters and owners for Brannigan. She spent some time there this summer during the pandemic. “Periodically the horses will take a break and go get turned out over there, so that’s really nice to give them a mental recharge,” said Held.
• Toddie has foals via embryo transfer. “We have one of her babies in the barn right now, Stella Royale, or ‘Reggie,’ ” said Held. “She is like a little mini Toddie. She’s about four inches shorter at least, and she’s just a little whippersnapper. She’s been going around novice quite successfully this past year. We just got her into the barn shortly before we left for Florida this past year. She’s opinionated like her mother, but it’s cool to see the two of them together.”
• Toddie is a fairly easy keeper and gets fit fast, so she eats a low sugar feed and a ration balancer, and she tends to do well on more forage than grain.
• She can be sensitive about her face. “She does not like having her face washed,” said Held. “When she gets four-star fit I have trouble bridling her at the horse shows! I try to do it on the horse trailer so I don’t lose her!”
• While Toddie may spook at the shrubbery around the farm, she’s all business when it comes to cross-country.
“It is so fun to watch those two compete,” said Held. “Jennie’s had her since she was going novice. I wasn’t there at the beginning, but definitely the partnership has come together, especially just in the last year that I’ve been with her. She’s been working really hard with Erik [Duvander], and she gets lessons from James [Burtwell]. They really click.”