When Jess Gehman first came to Boyd and Silva Martin’s Windurra USA as a working student, she started crossing paths with Ray Price, a plain bay gelding who had won the 2019 Mars Bromont CCI4*-L (Quebec) in few months earlier and was getting legged up after an injury.
Gehman was warned by other employees that “Ray” could be a handful, but she cheerfully offered to start hacking him. Unknowingly, her willingness to tackle Ray had started her down a path that would lead to her being gifted a four-star winner.
“I would put a cross-country saddle on him and just hold on to the strap where you hook up your airvest,” she said. “I would go for 40-minute hacks every day, and I came to love him and his personality.”
But after awhile, Ray started feeling off behind. An exam from Dr. Kevin Keane, DVM, determined he’d injured his hind leg—another setback to his competitive return.
It seemed the horse wasn’t destined to continue eventing, despite all the promise of his Bromont win. However, the Thoroughbred-warmblood (Raise A Stanza—Fair Fiona W, Salute) holds a special place in Boyd’s heart as a second-generation homebred, and the Martins weren’t ready to part with him just yet.
“Ray Price has been the biggest heartbreak of my whole life,” said Boyd. “We bred him in Australia, imported him all the way to America and went up the levels. He won the four-star long at Bromont, and at that moment I thought, ‘Wow, this is the horse that’s really going to set my career on fire.’ Unfortunately, he picked up a tendon injury there, which took a bit of time to heal up, then he whacked his hind leg in the paddock and injured some of the ligaments and tendons in his back ankle.
“We tried to get him back over and over, and in my heart of hearts I just felt like he wasn’t going to stand up to the level of work that a five-star horse needs to have put into him,” he added.
Luckily for Boyd, he had Gehman in the barn, a young rider who was willing and eager to do the hard work to get Ray healthy for a possible second try at a lower level.
After several more months of rehab and fitness, Ray and Gehman started competing together at novice. They did one horse trials in late 2021, then started moving up the levels in 2022, finishing their season with a fifth place ribbon in the CCI1*-L at Tryon (North Carolina) in November.
“He took care of me, for sure,” Gehman said. “I’m scared to death to do the one-star level, but I’m hoping I can get some prelims in to get the experience and not push him, do what his body tells me he can. If I can do a two-long, I’d love to do that, but it’s not dead set in my mind as the one goal I want to accomplish. If I could take him out fourth level dressage, I’d love to.”
Gehman, 23, grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, about 40 minutes from Windurra. Her parents, Greg and Karolyn Gehman, had a farm where Greg trained Standardbred trotters for the track, so Jess grew up learning the ins and out of breaking and starting horses. One of nine children, she enjoyed the Standardbreds as well as 4-H and U.S. Pony Club before deciding to learn more about eventing at Windurra.
When Boyd’s assistant groom left in early 2020, Gehman took over that position until March 2022 when she moved to Silva’s barn to work as head barn manager and groom for her dressage business.
“I had only done one or two events before I came here,” said Gehman, who arrived at Windurra with her 14-hand Morgan-Paint pony. “It was a shock when I got here.”
She broke her right leg at the end of 2020 bailing from a young horse, but spent her time off from riding getting to know Ray and eventually starting him back into work after his hind leg injury.
They spent most of 2020 hacking and working on Ray’s strength. At the time, Boyd wasn’t sure what to do with the gelding, but after talking to the 10 members of the Ray Price Syndicate, they decided to gift Ray to Jess.
“I was like, ‘Is this a joke?’ I absolutely want him. I love him,” she said. “He was wild and didn’t have much of a personality when I got here, and now he’s my best friend. He’s the one I’m grooming every night for an hour after work when he wasn’t even mine. He’s the horse of a lifetime.”
Jess keeps Ray happy and sound by working on dressage six days a week and jumping a few times a month.
She also keeps her Instagram updated with Ray’s daily cravings using the hashtag #Rayoftheday. The gelding enjoys many human foods like cookies, brownies, chips, pickles and sandwiches.
Boyd said that Ray looks sounder than ever and jokes that maybe he made a mistake letting him go, but he’s proud to watch his homebred teach a young rider and give her confidence.
“Everyone that works for us loves Ray. He’s so cuddly and friendly and polite,” he said. “It’s fantastic seeing Ray thrive at the lower levels of the sport. She’s a great girl and a great rider. We’re very grateful to the owners of Ray. They were right behind seeing Ray have a second career as a young rider’s horse. To see Ray be very important to another rider’s career is an added bonus.”