Courtney King-Dye has struck just the balance she needs to get the most from the 18-year-old stallion.
Keeping Idocus happy isn’t just a part of Courtney King-Dye’s program; it is the program. He’s 18 years old, has competed in the Olympics for the Netherlands with Marlies van Baalen in 2004, and if Idocus doesn’t want to play, no persuasion from King-Dye is going to make him.
“He really needs to feel motivated and to feel pleasure, just like a person,” said King-Dye. “He obviously knows all of the movements really well and has great ability for them, so the biggest challenge is keeping him happy and inspired because of his intelligence.”
King-Dye did a phenomenal job motivating the Dutch Warmblood stallion in 2007. The pair started off with a second-placed finish at the U.S. Dressage League Final.
They went on to place sixth at the Rolex FEI World Cup Dressage Final (Nev.), earn the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Grand Prix Championship reserve title and compete in Aachen, Germany.
Lendon Gray, King-Dye’s mentor and trainer, said, “This year is the culmination of the partnership of Courtney and Idocus. When he came back from Europe there was a lot of trust to rebuild, and this year was the culmination.”
Christine McCarthy has owned Idocus since he was a foal. She first sent him to Scott Hassler to train and then on to Gray’s farm as a 6-year-old. King-Dye rode him for four years while she was working with Gray, and the pair did their first Grand Prix together. She traveled to Europe with Idocus and competed successfully there at Grand Prix, but then McCarthy decided he should continue on with van Baalen for the next five years.
“He was so unbelievably playful, soft and willing,” recalled King-Dye of their earlier time together. “You never had to give a strong half-halt. It was just an incredible communication with him.”
But when Idocus returned from Europe, and King-Dye arranged to lease him from McCarthy, she found he wasn’t the same animal. Initially she hoped to compete internationally with him but had to scale back her expectations until Idocus was ready to cooperate.
Little by little, King-Dye convinced Idocus that showing could be fun again by not doing too much of it. “I don’t overwork him,” she said. “I hack him half the time. He loves an adventure. We have a big polo field at Lendon’s where I gallop him, anything to give him some fun. ”
Gray said there was tremendous pressure on King-Dye when she got him back. “Some people would have tried to push through, or be ambitious enough to say, ‘I’m going to make this work no matter what.’ She was hungry but smart enough to give him his time. The horse comes first before her career.”
Description: Bay, stallion, 16.2 hands, 18, Dutch Warmblood (Eretha—Equador), owned by Christine McCarthy.
Home: Bedford, N.Y.
What He Eats: Purina Ultium, Purina Amplify and Succeed as well as all the hay he wants.
Blanket Size: 78
Daily Routine: He’s fed at 6 a.m. “He goes for a hand walk for at least 20 minutes, grazes and walks all around,” said King-Dye. “I usually ride him in the morning, between 10 and 12. He gets walked again in the afternoon. If at any point during the day he’s kicking at the stall or whatever, he gets a walk.”
Favorite Treats: “Apples are his favorite. He also eats carrots and bananas,” said King-Dye. “Every once in a while he’ll take a snack of whatever I’m eating. He eats a lot of things, but if you give him something he doesn’t like, you’re really blamed for it. If he grabs the hot pepper out of your hand, you’re definitely going to get the wrath of Idocus.”
Bad Habits: Idocus likes to open his mouth. “Even without the bridle on, if you leave him on the crossties, he stands there with his jaw open, and he puts it to the side,” said King-Dye. “He has a very small mouth and doesn’t like the double bridle anyway. If it were an option to ride the Grand Prix in a snaffle, I’d do it. I basically never ride him in the double.”
Fan Club: “He has such a fan following. People love Idocus wherever he goes,” said King-Dye. “People e-mail me Idy fan mail, and at the World Cup there was a big banner that said, “Go Courtney and Idocus.’”
“I had to gradually increase my expectation,” she said. “It’s been a give-and-take process. I can’t all of a sudden put the pressure on him, because then he says, ‘That’s not fun.’ ”
King-Dye strives to keep Idocus happy by allowing him just about anything he wants on the ground.
“Since I’ve had him back he’s been treated as a person,” said King-Dye. “He’s not to be ignored, he’s to be pampered and spoiled as he should be.”
His groom, Elias Ramirez, admitted that Idocus requires special treatment.
“I really love him because he is very smart, and he has a real personality,” he said. “When I give him an apple on the crossties, he doesn’t like it when I bite the apple first.”
King-Dye compared riding most horses to an 80/20 partnership where the rider makes 80 percent of the decisions. But with Idocus that split is more like 60/40.
“You need to know when to draw the line,” she said. I let him get away with things I wouldn’t let another horse get away with, but it’s been a balancing act and a learning process for me of exactly where the line is drawn.”
King-Dye plans to continue leasing Idocus from McCarthy, an arrangement that generally works out well.
“Breeding season is a hard time because it coincides with the important show season,” said King-Dye. “It’s really hard to balance the amount of breeding and showing he does.”
Idocus is in demand as a sire because his offspring are achieving great things. The 12-year-old stallion Olivier (Idocus—Rowillie) has won back-to-back Brentina Cups with Elisabeth Austin, and, like his sire, may go to the Olympic selection trials this spring.
2007 Competitive Highlights 6th—Rolex FEI World Cup Dressage Final (Nev.)
2nd—Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Grand Prix Championship (N.J.)
2nd—U.S. League Final and Freestyle Championship (Calif.)
2nd—Grand Prix, Dressage At Devon CDI (Pa.)
2nd—Grand Prix freestyle, Dressage At Devon CDI (Pa.)
1st—Grand Prix freestyle, Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI (Fla.)
11th—Grand Prix Special, Aachen CDIO (Germany)