Wednesday, May. 22, 2024

Behind The Stall Door With: Twilightslastgleam

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Now called “Grandpa” or “Comic” to those who know him well, Jennie Brannigan’s five-star horse Twilightslastgleam was dubbed “A Red-Headed Problem Child” in a 2015 article following his reserve championship at the previous fall’s USEA Young Event Horse East Coast Championship (Maryland).

“When he was at Fair Hill [Training Center] he was so bad he bucked everyone off; he never made it out of the shedrow,” Brannigan recalled.

In his youth, the chestnut gelding dumped almost everyone who had a leg over him. Jump jockey Willie McCarthy and eventer Waylon Roberts were two of the only ones who stayed on him, and Roberts even took Comic around his first beginner novice, albeit wearing an air vest during his dressage test, just to be safe.

Brannigan still has a limp from being launched by Comic when she went to adjust a stirrup and landed on her knee. Comic also dumped her mentor, Phillip Dutton, years ago in the week before he went to Pau (France) with Mr. Medicott.

Twilightslastgleam was quite naughty as a young horse, but he’s grown to be a fierce competitor for rider Jennie Brannigan. Amy K. Dragoo Photo

“Getting up on him was tricky,” Brannigan said. “Willie was the one figured out to slowly swing your leg over him from the mounting block. He said, ‘DO NOT touch his sides too soon or quick, or he will split himself in half, and you will find yourself on the ground.

“Anyone can hack him now,” she added. “[Jumper rider and trainer] Matt Hollberg wants him for his daughter when she is ready to jump. I’m laughing, thinking, ‘Gosh, if you had seen this horse as a 4-year-old, you would have never asked that.’ ”

But the now-14-year-old Thoroughbred (National Anthem—Royal Child, Northern Baby), owned and bred by Nina Gardner grew up eventually, and he recently earned his third five-star completion at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event, where he was 16th.

Twilightslastgleam finished 16th at the Defender Kentucky CCI5*-L, April 25-28 in Lexington, Ky. Kimberly Loushin Photo

• Comic was bred by Nina and Tim Gardner and foaled out at their London Grove, Pennsylvania, farm by manager Karen Hokanson on May 8, 2010, at 2:20 a.m., weighing 117 pounds. She knows because she keeps detailed records of everything that happens at the farm, where Comic still returns whenever he’s enjoying some time off or dealing with Injury or illness.

We caught up with Comic during his winter break to learn more about this character.

• Comic enjoys his vacations greatly.

 “He just wants to be left alone,” Hokanson said. “He lives out, only comes in in bad weather; he doesn’t like blankets. One year he destroyed five blankets. There is a still a piece of reflective [material] stuck in a stall wall from him. It’s been there for years.”

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Karen Hokanson took detailed notes when Comic was born. Amy K. Dragoo Photo

• Hokanson is the one who nicknamed him Comic, but her record-keeping fails to note why.

“I don’t remember exactly what he did as a foal, but he was freaking hysterical,” she said. “I was always saying, ‘You are such a comedian,’ how can I make this your name?”

Hollberg is the one who gave him his more recent moniker, “Grandpa.”

“Because he comes out a little stiff and grunts off the ground,” said Brannigan.

Comic loves his vacations. Amy K. Dragoo Photo

• Hokanson spent plenty of time desensitizing the spicy red head.

“He was terrified at the sound of Velcro, just that sound,” she recalled. “I would spend 10 to 15 minutes a day with him just ripping Velcro.”

• Fun fact: Comic’s Jockey Club-registered name is spelled Twilightslastgleem not “gleam” as it is on his FEI registration.

• After getting kicked out of Elizabeth Merryman’s training barn for dropping all her exercise riders, and in one case, throwing himself and the rider on the ground, Comic began his event horse training at Dutton’s True Prospect Farm. When Brannigan left True Prospect to start her own business, Nina supported her by sending all her young horses to her.

“As a young horse, he had no personality,” Brannigan recalled. “I had to force him to learn to eat mints. Now he’s just a sweetheart.”

Excuse me, I’m pretty sure those are for me. Why are you eating my treats?” Comic asks. Amy K. Dragoo Photo

•  As an emotional Brannigan noted when she came off cross-country at Kentucky this year after a clean, fast round with the gelding, Comic could be the poster child for the adage, “You don’t ride the x-rays.”

“He has proper kissing spine right where the saddle goes,” she noted.

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In 2017 he received the Holekamp/Turner Young Event Horse Le Lion d’Angers Grant and was slated to compete in the FEI World Breeding Eventing Championships at Le Lion d’Angers (France) but didn’t make the trip.

Instead he had a year of stall rest due to a “hot leg.”

“He had a lot more freedom in his back going into Lion,” Brannigan said. “Now it’s almost fused there and a lot less sensitive. It was really hard to get his flexibility and strength back. I didn’t know if he was going to go back to eventing, let alone be a five-star horse.

“He’s a horse you get on every day and appreciate how hard he tries,” she added. “People don’t buy horses for so many silly reasons; I just want to say, ‘You should see my five-star horse’s back!’ ”

• He’s very opinionated. He is barn sour, and he hates not being with other horses, especially Brannigan’s former five-star mount Stella Artois.

Comic enjoys turnout with his friends. Amy K. Dragoo Photo

• Comic has a very fine coat, so much so you can almost see his skin in the summer. Additionally, his skin is very sensitive.

“We have to keep him dry; he’s allergic to his own sweat and will lose his hair,” Brannigan said. “In the summer he always has a fly sheet or Kool Coat on.”

• Though he has quirks and challenges, Comic is a trier.

“I love this horse,” Brannigan said. “He has quite a few physical things he has to deal with, and he gives 120 percent every day. Everyone loves him for that.”

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