It’s not every horse that can compete at the FEI level in two different disciplines—before Clearwater was jumping around grand prix show jumping tracks, he competed up to the CCI* level in eventing in Europe. Most recently, Marilyn Little guided Clearwater to the win in the $130,000 Suncast Commercial CSI*** during the Tryon IV Horse Show on Oct. 14.
Little, who competes at the top levels of show jumping and eventing on different horses, first met “Dishie” in 2013 as a young event prospect. “I tried him as a 6-year-old for an American eventer, and she ended up purchasing another horse, but I liked the horse very much as a jumper,” Little, 36, said. “He gave you a great feeling in the air, and he had a great natural balance.”
It just so happened that event rider Karen O’Connor was looking for a horse to start competing in pure show jumping when Little tried Dishie. “Karen decided that she wanted to start riding and competing, and I thought that would be a really interesting horse for her, so she purchased the horse for herself,” Little said.
O’Connor competed Dishie a few times in 2013 and ’14 before she decided that due to previous injuries she’d rather step down from competing. Riders like Nick Dello Joio, Edouard Couperie and Angel Karolyi showed Clearwater in 2014 and 2015 while Little was more focused on her eventing. It was the beginning of 2016 when Little started competing the now-10-year-old Holsteiner (Clearway—Tricolore-W—Come On).
“The horse is certainly bred to be a show jumper; he’s very careful, and he’s quite character. When he was younger we called him a punk,” Little said with a laugh. “He really fit the show jumping mold. He was a little spry, and the eventers have to be so trainable and be such good steady souls, and he’s not.”
His spunky personality is what earned him the barn name Dishie.
“He’s Clearwater, but when he’s bad, [we call him] dirty dish water, dirty dishes,” Little laughed. “I have no idea where that came from, but he’s always been Dishie.”
Dishie’s turnout routine adds an element of reality to the nickname. “He has a habit of going out every morning in his paddock and becoming bay, every single day without fail,” Little said. “He comes in as dirty dishes, and by the time he goes out in the afternoon for his exercise he’s clean and sparkly again. His groom Daniel Aranda is really amazing and spends the majority of his day with Dishie.”
Aranda has been working for Little for the past year and is Dishie’s No. 1 fan.
“I think it’s really important when horses are stepping up that they feel they have a team behind them, but they also need their person, and Daniel is a great partner for Dishie,” Little said. “He believes in him 24 hours a day. There is never a doubt in Daniel’s mind he’s going to win, and every single time I get on he gives me a leg up and he says, ‘He’s really feeling great today! He’s ready to win!’ ”
Aranda was dead-on with his prediction for the $130,000 Suncast Commercial CSI*** Grand Prix. The 44-horse start field saw 11 come back to jump off where Little and “Dishie” returned last in the order and outran them all.
“There were so many in the jump-off. I thought Beezie [Madden] was quite fast, and that I’d be trying to beat her. Then they just kept getting faster and faster,” said Little. “That’s a little how the class went, overall. I knew I was going to have to go in and put in a personal best, and if we did that he would win because he’s so fast.”
Little was happy to break Dishie’s not-quite-quick-enough streak with the win.
“He’s been second so many times. If you look at his record he’s been the bridesmaid so many times. He hasn’t really gotten the attention or focus put on him yet, but he’s a really fun story,” Little said. “Having him be owned by Karen, who is obviously an eventer but has really found an incredible love for the show jumping sport. And she makes a huge effort to come see this horse when he’s competing and be a part of his career.
“I think that’s really special,” Little continued. “And I think this is a great horse. We’re all really excited about what’s to come.”
Little plans to stay in Tryon and contend the $380,000 Rolex CSI***** Grand Prix on Oct. 21 with Dishie.