Poggio’s record doesn’t include a lot of wins, and he’s not usually in contention for year-end awards. But the former race horse, who’d also worked as a mountain pack horse, has played a crucial role for the U.S. team at international championships over the past four years. And Amy Tryon has carefully groomed him for that role as a team horse, forfeiting most of the individual accolades she might have received along the way.
In Aachen, in 2006, Poggio “stepped out of his class a bit,” said Tryon, and proved that he’s more than a solid team score as he earned an individual bronze medal as the top U.S. horse at the FEI World Equestrian Games.
Poggio’s reputation as a hot, quirky Thoroughbred precedes him, but Tryon said the horse who shows up at major events isn’t the same quiet horse she knows at home.
“Part of why he gets hot is just wanting to try so hard,” said Tryon. “Everything you do with him has to be done quietly. He has the nicest temperament. It’s so easy to teach him new things. In 10 years, I can count on one hand the number of times he’s said no. He’s always had such a great work ethic, and he’s so lovely to ride on a daily basis.”
Tryon believes his increased rideability at events has come as he’s gotten stronger and overcome his downhill conformation. “A lot of the relaxation and rideability have come because the job is easier for him to do than when he was less strong,” she said.
Poggio first represented the U.S. team at the 1999 Pan Am Games (Canada) and has since competed in the 2002 WEG (Spain), the 2004 Athens Olympics, and the 2006 WEG (Germany).
“He’s a great asset [to the team], because if you get him in the general vicinity [of a fence], he’s going to try,” said Tryon. “And he has the ability to keep going and fighting no matter what the conditions–whether it’s heat or bad footing. I think he’s seen just about anything a course designer would throw at him.”
Allyson Green, who grooms for Poggio at major events, believes that Tryon is the key to Poggio’s accomplishments. “They have a fantastic relationship, and she’s his best advocate. He has his own unique style that gets criticized, but she’s always stuck in there and said, ‘This works for my horse.’ She knows what he needs for warm-up or fitness,” said Green. “She knows him the best, and he responds to that well. They have this perfect bond.”
Green sees on a daily basis how Tryon fosters that bond. “He’s definitely her favorite. She always walks in the barn, and he’s the first she says hi to. You’re never allowed to yank on him if he walks over you, because he’s Poggio,” she added with a laugh. “She gives him a lot more emotional attention, because she has a long history with him and where he’s come from.”
Poggio started the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** for the fourth time in 2006, but Tryon and U.S. Chef d’Equipe Capt. Mark Phillips decided not to risk running him there, in order to save him for the WEG four months later.
“For Poggio’s entire career, I’ve tried to concentrate on making him the best team horse, not running horse trials to win, and being very careful when and where he’s run,” said Tryon. “I thought I had more to lose than gain [at Kentucky], but we would have won on our dressage score, and that’s really hard. At the time, it was very disappointing, but Aachen was our big goal, and he doesn’t owe me a thing.”
One of the few courses Poggio hasn’t tackled is the Badminton CCI**** (England), and Tryon is debating whether that should be on his schedule in 2007. “He’d be such a wonderful horse to ride around a course like Badminton,” she said. “To have a horse like him and not do Badminton would be a shame.”
But, of course, the 2008 Olympics are her ultimate goal, and she will work his schedule around qualifying for that.
“He’s always been such a special horse to me–he tries so hard, and there’s not a mean bone in his body,” she said. “He’s eager to do anything.”
When her friend Janet von Pressentin first found Poggio, he had a foot-long bridle path, a foot-long mane and no shoes. “He looked like an Arab pony,” said Tryon with a laugh.
So the bronze medal that he earned in Aachen had great meaning to everyone who’d followed his fairytale career. But Tryon’s greatest pride in that horse, 10 years later, isn’t any of the medals that hang in her home, not even the individual one she earned in 2006.
“The thing I’m most proud of is that he’s been eventing at the advanced level for eight years, and every year he’s gotten better,” she said. “He’s still eventing at the advanced level and enjoying every minute and not feeling worn down.
“He’s done so much more than I ever felt possible, because he wanted to, not because he’s particularly gifted,” she added. “To have a horse like that is a really special thing.”
Description: Bay gelding, 15 years, 16.0 hands, U.S.-bred Thoroughbred, by Polynesian Flyer–Waves Club, owned by Amy and Greg Tryon and Mark Hart.
Farrier: Allen Barardo, San Diego, Calif.
Veterinarians: Bob Fleck and Mark Revenaugh.
Turn-out: All night, every night.
Vices: Cribs, all the time, on anything–ropes, stall guards.
Itchiest Spot: His stomach. “Sometimes he picks up his hind foot and stares at his stomach, and if you don’t know him it looks like he’s colicking, but he just has an itchy stomach,” said Allyson Green.
Maintenance Routine: Whirlpool ice for 40 minutes every time he jumps or gallops; Adequan and Legend weekly when competing; magnetic blanket daily at events; UlcerGard whenever traveling or competing; acupuncture from Wendy Furlong at major events.
Feed: LMF high fat.
He Loves: Having his ears clipped, his tail pulled, being body clipped. “He’s a funny horse that loves life,” said Tryon. “He’s just a happy-go-lucky guy.”
Calming Mechanisms: Rubbing his ears, which Green does before cross-country or any time he’s nervous, and he’s allowed to hack around a venue, grazing as he wishes, to relax him.
Warm-Up: He rarely jumps over 3’3″ before show jumping, never gets a rub before going into the ring, and Tryon never practices her changes before dressage. “[Capt.] Mark Phillips has been so open to allowing me to do what I know makes him successful,” said Tryon.
2006–FEI World Equestrian Games (individual bronze medal)
2004–Athens Olympics (team bronze, sixth place individually)
2002–FEI World Equestrian Games (team gold)
1999–Pan Am Games (fourth place individually)
Completed Rolex Kentucky CCI**** three times (2002, 04, 05) and the 2003 Burghley CCI**** (England).