Buck Davidson’s former five-star mount Ballynoe Castle RM, better known as “Reggie,” died peacefully in the field he shared with My Boy Bobby at Davidson’s Ocala farm on April 23.
“I gave him a pat before I left for Kentucky, never thinking it was the last time I’d give him a pat,” Davidson said.
The Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ramiro B—Ballyvaldon Natalie, Blue Laser), owned by Carl and Cassie Segal, was a few days shy of his 21st birthday. He was bred in Ireland by Sylvester Cullen and then purchased by the Segals for Davidson, sight unseen, through Patricia Nicholson, who bred Davidson’s father’s mounts Pirate Lion and Eagle Lion.
In 2015, Reggie eclipsed Winsome Adante in lifetime U.S. Eventing Association points. He and Davidson completed the Kentucky CCL5*-L three times, their best finish being in 2014 when they were third. They completed the 2009 Burghley CCI5*-L (England), 2011 Badminton CCI5*-L (England), and also represented the U.S. at the 2010 and 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Kentucky and France, respectively). Reggie retired from upper level competition in 2016.
For all of his competitive accolades, Reggie was perhaps best known for his adoring fan base. “You could feel when you were warming up at a big competition—at Kentucky, certainly, you could always sort of feel the buzz of people wanting to see him,” Davidson recalled. “But then you’d be at little events and there’d still be people coming over to see him. He loved that.”
We asked Davison for some of his favorite memories of the horse who was such a fan favorite.
2017 Rolex Kentucky CCI5*-L Test Ride
Reggie’s longtime groom, Kathleen Murray, had the honor of guiding him in his last trip down centerline when the pair did the test ride at the 2017 Rolex Kentucky CCI5*-L. Reggie officially was retired in a ceremony on the final day of the event.
“That was amazing, how hard [Kathleen] worked to learn that test and to do a good job,” Davidson said. “I knew Reggie wasn’t going to let her down, that’s for sure. But the two of them did what they did at every competition, and they rose to the occasion and were amazing.”
2014 Rolex Kentucky CCI5*-L
Davidson and Reggie won the Rolex/U.S. Equestrian Federation National CCI5*-L Championship at Kentucky in 2013, finishing fourth overall, but it’s the dramatic finish at the 2014 event that sticks in Davidson’s mind as one of his favorite memories.
They were tied after dressage with Andrew Nicholson on Avebury and Sinead Maynard on Manoir De Carneville. All three pairs jumped cleanly on cross-country and remained tied, but Davidson’s time was closest to optimum, meaning he’d win any tie-breakers. So the pressure was on headed into show jumping.
“One of the first lines, I added a stride in a turn,” Davidson said. “So I knew I was at least half a second down on the time. And every line, I was thinking, ‘I gotta leave out a stride here; I gotta leave out a stride somewhere,’ and it didn’t come up until the last line.”
They were able to leave long to the very last fence, finishing double clear and securing third place.
“I’ll never forget him jumping that last oxer, and the crowd when you landed was amazing,” Davidson said.
Training Level At Rocking Horse
After Reggie retired from upper-level competition, Murray took him in three outings at training level in the spring of 2017.
“I remember taking Reggie to the start box for Kathleen in her first training event with him at Rocking Horse [Florida]. She’s saying, ‘I’m nervous he’s going to run off with me!’ ” Davidson recalled. (He didn’t, and they finished fifth.) “That was really, really fun for me, and I know it was just as much fun for the Segals watching Kathleen go around at Rocking Horse as it was watching me going around at Kentucky or Badminton.”
Reggie was always picky about his ride over fences, and pretty much stopped with every single other person who attempted to jump him, Davidson said.
“Kathleen and Reggie had something special, something that you can’t explain. I’ve never seen a horse and a person so close as the two of them,” he said. “It didn’t matter what was going to happen; Kathleen could have sat on him backwards. He knew she did everything for him, so I knew he was going to do everything for her. That was him in a nutshell.”
2011 Badminton CCI5*-L
Davidson’s competitive season didn’t get off to a great start in 2011. He had a bad fall from Reggie at a water jump in advanced at Poplar Place (Georgia) in March, knocking out all his front teeth. Although Davidson had planned to take Reggie to Badminton, he was having second thoughts, and he told Carl Segal he didn’t think they should go.
“He’s like, ‘Buck, he’s going to be amazing. We’re going to Badminton.’ I said, ‘What?! I think it’s a bad idea, we’re not going very well.’ ” Davidson recalled.
Segal was right. They went. And they jumped around the cross-country course clean, adding just 10 time penalties. They ended up finishing 21st and were the top-placed Americans.
“Coming to the finish at Badminton and seeing Carl jumping up and down. … I’d never seen Carl that excited before,” Davidson said. “That was really cool. Carl and Cassie, they’ve been like family for me. What they’ve done for me, what they’ve done for Kathleen, what they’ve done for the whole sport and never asked for anything, has been absolutely amazing. I’m so thankful to have them as my friends, and it really started with Reggie.”