Elkton, Md.—Oct. 18
His list of quirks may be a mile long, but Almanac has something special that makes Bobby Meyerhoff continue to put his foot in the stirrup, albeit carefully, every day.
“I wanted to see where we could take him and what he could do, and he’s just climbed up the ladder,” said Meyerhoff, who’s leading the CCI** at the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International after day one of dressage on 26.3. “I think the world of the horse. He’s got his quirks, and he’s really weird, but I think he’s got all the talent that it takes to go to the top; it’s just a matter of, can we do it?”
Meyerhoff acquired the 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding (As Di Volare—Fuerst Aphrodites R, Fuerst Gothard) from his breeder and co-owner Gail Dady about 2 ½ years ago.
He was bred to be a show jumper, but when that didn’t pan out, Meyerhoff took him as a sales horse. Once his quirks became apparent, however, Meyerhoff knew he would be a tough sell and decided to try eventing him, and they’ve become partners.
To start with, mounting was a major issue. It required two people holding “Maniac,” who Meyerhoff says lives up to his barn name.
“When you got a leg up—because you couldn’t get on with a mounting block because he would freak out, and you would fall off—you’d have to get both feet in the stirrups without touching his back,” he said. “If you touched his back you were going to be on the ground. I spent a long time teaching him it was OK for me to get on.”
Meyerhoff, Statesville, North Carolina, is Maniac’s only rider, which he thinks has helped their partnership. “It does make our bond a little stronger because he knows I’m his rider,” he said. “He hasn’t pulled anything in a long time, but I know how to get on him exactly, and I don’t change that.”
Dressage and show jumping warm-up present another problem for Maniac, who tends to get nervous with horses coming at him. Meyerhoff stayed out of the main warm-up area today before his test and was able to take what he had into the ring.
“I had a really specific plan with him,” he said. “I kept him on the grass leading up and had a lookout to give me a heads up when the horse ahead of me was doing the last bit of canter work. He didn’t change much when I went over to the ring and felt really nice. He went in and did his job. He got a little tense here and there, but I was able to keep it under wrap and stay content.”
In show jumping, the gelding can be spooky. “For every show that I’ve been to, I’ve nearly fallen off by a hair at home every time,” he said. “Jumping him at home is the same. He’s probably worse at home than he is at the show. The jump can be 2′, 3′, it doesn’t matter. If he sees something he thinks is there, you better be ready.”
Despite his quirks, the pair finished fourth at the Jersey Fresh International CCI** (New Jersey) this spring, and Meyerhoff is looking forward to Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course on Saturday.
“I think it’s a nice course,” he said. “There’s a lot of challenges. Derek’s done a great job designing it to look very forward and nice and pleasant, and knowing his courses and this terrain, that’s not always how it goes. I think it’s going to be a good test. It’s going to be hard to make the time. We’re going to have a crack at it. I’ve gone kind of quick with the horse because he had experience jumping before. I just needed to teach him the sport and get him experience and make sure his head was still straight. At the two-star level I slowed down a bit to make sure that I don’t go too fast and lose his confidence. That’s why I’m here. If this goes well we’ll move up to advanced next year.”
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The Chronicle will be on site at the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International all weekend to bring you news and photos from the fall’s premiere three-day event. Check back at coth.com all weekend and be sure to read the Nov. 5 print edition for much more.