Behind The Stall Door With: Summersby

Jun 4, 2019 - 2:02 PM

She’s known around the barn as the “Red Queen,” and Summersby certainly looks the part. JJ Tate has brought the 12-year-old mare up to the international levels, making appearances along the way at venues like Dressage At Devon (Pennsylvania) and the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions.

Summersby is gearing up for her Grand Prix debut later this year, so we took the chance to get to know her majesty a little better.

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Don’t let the classic red mare scowl fool you! Summersby has more bark than bite. Kieran Paulsen Photos

• Tate started riding Summersby (Sir Donnerhall—Roxane, Rosentau) as a coming 5-year-old.

“Caroline Roffman called me the weekend of my wedding and was like, ‘I have a horse for you!’ ” Tate said. “She told me, ‘She’s really talented, but she needs a special rider.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know what that means. I guess thank you, maybe?’ I went and rode her and immediately fell in love with her.”

• Actually, “love” might not be a strong enough word for Tate and Summersby’s bond.

“We’re like soul sisters. She’s an extension of me, which is good sometimes and bad other times,” Tate said. “She’s been a wonderful horse to bring along. She’s extremely smart and very red-headed. I wish I was as pretty as she is! I tell her that all the time. I try to be as beautiful and confident as she is.”

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It’s tough to match Summersby for beauty and confidence, but Tate believes it’s good to have challenging goals.

• Summersby has flashes of “red mare logic” that inspire her to do things like jump out of stall windows. These flashes have diminished in frequency over time, much to the relief of Tate and her crew.

“Maturity has been a big thing she’s improved on,” Tate said. “She used to get really excited about large venues and atmospheres. If I was nervous she’d feel that and be like, ‘Why are you nervous?’ And I’d be like, ‘I’m not nervous, why are you!?’ We had this, ‘If you would calm down, I would calm down,’ relationship that has gotten better as she’s grown up.”

• Summersby has impressed big names like the late Walter Zettl.

“She’s got this little black spot on her bum, and Walter was like, ‘Oh, that’s a sign of a strong chestnut,’ ” Tate said. “And I was like, ‘Uh, is that a good thing? Or should I be concerned?’ ”

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The late dressage master Walter Zettl said the dark spot on Summersby’s rump is a sign of a strong horse.

• Summersby has embraced her royal nickname, so she likes her routines to stay the same.

“She’s funny about turnout,” Tate said. “If you make her wait she might try to kick you. If she gets off schedule she’s not OK with that. She’s like, ‘People, I need to go outside now! Who is here to take me outside?’ We made the mistake once of booting her up, and then it started raining, so we waited a little bit to see if it would stop. She was not pleased with that.”

• Their seven years together are only the beginning of Tate and Summersby’s story.

“She and I are two peas in a pod,” Tate said. “She’s just one of those special horses that comes into your life. She’s one of my heart-horses, so it will be really fun to see what she turns into.”

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Keep an eye out for Tate and Summersby in the dressage ring; they have big plans for the future.

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