Wayne, Ill.—Aug. 23
When the show season shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, Chris Hickey had one goal in mind: Don’t overtrain.
“When riders and trainers aren’t traveling, and they’re stuck at home, it’s easy to overwork your horses,” he said. “I’ve been trying to stay conscientious of that and not make them crazy.”
That means he’s hit the trails at Cece Stewart’s Edgemoor, South Carolina, facility. “I’ve been trying to get my horses out in the woods and trotting over cavalettis and trotting poles in the field and having a long-lining day,” he said.
That approach has been particularly useful for Stenagers Wyatt Earp, who contested the world championships for young horses under Danish rider Kenneth Damgaard’s saddle as a 5- and 6-year-old before Stewart purchased him in the fall of 2018.
“To do those shows, they have to have their legs coming out of their eyeballs,” said Hickey. “It’s very important that this horse allows me to turn the volume up and turn the volume down and that he settles and can be quiet as well as electric and hot.”
Hickey channeled the 8-year-old Danish Warmblood’s (Wilkens—Stenagers Santana, Sandro Hit) electricity in the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Dressage National Championships at the U.S. Dressage Festival Of Champions to win both classes on an average score of 72.07 percent.
Hickey said his focus throughout the championships was on keeping “Wyatt” quiet and trusting him. While they’ve already accomplished plenty of accolades, Hickey’s focus is on making a Grand Prix horse rather than earning blue ribbons along the way.
“The horse has plenty of quality, but sometimes those hot horses make mistakes,” he explained. “It’s really important for me to have this horse trust me in this kind of venue. When he gets really electric and tight, he can be hiking his hind legs up and being a little crazy legged. He is a horse that gets hot. For a Grand Prix horse to still be going at the end of the test, you need to have a horse that has some spice in it on its own. I really love that about him.”
Hickey grew emotional as he described their roller-coaster journey to even get to the championship.
“We had some problems at home a few weeks ago,” he explained. “One of our top horses had a broken tooth that the dentist found that I had no idea about. So I didn’t even think we were going to come to this championships because I was afraid to leave that horse at home. She was in the developing Grand Prix, and then with the whole pandemic and corona, are we going, are we not going? At the last minute when Cece, my sponsor who owns the three horses that are here, she decided she felt comfortable enough to come, so this makes it really special that Wyatt did so well here.”