Kimberly Beattie wasn’t totally sold on Charmander when she first met him. The flea-bitten gray gelding was already 18 when she tried him in Ocala in 2016 while looking for an experienced jumper.
“I had some young jumpers and hunters when we were looking for another horse to take me up the jumper ranks, as our young jumpers were challenging,” she said. “Then we found Charmander.
“We tried him, [and] he was great, but for some reason, I didn’t like him,” she added.
A couple of months later, when Beattie still had not found the experienced jumper she wanted, her father surprised her by buying the Holsteiner gelding (Cassini I—Dolli II, Caretino), who had competed in Fédération Equestre Internationale grand prix classes with Germany’s Ulrich Kirchhoff in his younger years.
Beattie and Charmander have been mainstays in the jumper ring ever since, with the gray still going strong at age 24 and headed to the Devon Horse Show, May 26-June 5 in Devon, Pennsylvania, to compete in the adult amateur jumpers.
“My dad knows nothing about horses, but he gets all the credit. He picks better horses than I do,” Beattie said with a laugh. “Charmander has been a dream. Even up to last year when he was 23, he was doing the low amateur jumpers down in Wellington [Florida]. He’s incredible.”
To keep her super-senior going, Beattie, 33, Mahwah, New Jersey, uses a fitness routine focused on keeping the Holsteiner gelding sound, competitive and happy. Charmander receives daily turnout, handwalks and treadmill time for low-impact workouts. Beattie credits her trainer, Lauren Hough, and Hough’s team with Charmander’s good health.
“Lauren’s team and program prides themselves on the horses being out of the stall a lot,” Beattie said. “He’s ridden every day, whether we’re doing a flat lesson, cavaletti work or jumping small courses. On the other days, we ride him on the canals, polo fields and trails, just to keep him happy and loving his job. Lauren’s program is one that is so precise and adjusted to every horse’s needs. The horse always comes first.”
For Charmander, that program also includes supportive therapies like massage blankets, chiropractic work, ice boots and a good farrier.
Beattie, an amateur who works both as a physical therapist and a representative for her parents’ pharmaceutical company, also has dropped Charmander down to lower divisions gradually over the past few years to keep him feeling well within himself.
Competing in the adult amateur jumpers this year at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida), they took home top ribbons, including a reserve champion tricolor in Week 11. Beattie’s goal at Devon this year is to make sure Charmander enjoys himself, and that they have fun.
“Charmander is a true testament of the care and training he gets at 24,” said Beattie. “He thinks he can do more, and he wants to, but we always have to remind ourselves he’s 24, although Charmander believes 24 is the new 12.”
The gelding was born in 1998 and got his name from the hit gaming series Pokemon. The children of his breeder, Peter Carl Petersen, loved the series’ magical creatures, so they named the new colt Charmander after a cute and friendly fire-dragon Pokemon character.
He was gelded and came to the U.S. in 2012, competing briefly in the equitation divisions then in the jumper ring with Nikko Ritter. Despite having more show-ring years under his girth than most of his competitors have been alive, Charmander still lights up in the ring, Beattie said.
“We just take him to the show and jump on, and he knows it’s time to perform,” Beattie said. “If I make a mistake, and he has a rail, he’ll sit at the in-gate and paw and be very stallion-like walking home. But if we do make it to the jump off, he totally knows that he is there to win, and he’s incredible. We joke that he sees inside turns that nobody else sees. But he sees them, and he just turns.”
And just like his namesake Pokemon character, the horse would prefer to cuddle up in Beattie’s lap if he could.
“His personality is so snuggly, and he’s always so playful. He doesn’t care what’s going on. He just wants to be the center of attention, but he’s so polite about it,” Beattie said. “When our grooms are cleaning tack, he’ll try to rest his head on their shoulders. He will literally lick the side of your face like he’s a dog. … He’s like our gentle giant; he’s literally a Great Dane.”
Charmander’s athleticism and attitude are special enough that Beattie has decided to try cloning him. A surrogate mare has been identified, and Charmander’s cells have been collected to start the process, she said.
“It’s fascinating because they take the cells from right under their neck, right under their tail, and from their chests,” she said. “And they harvest the cells and basically make little embryos of him, and they freeze them until we’re ready to implant them into a surrogate. So it’s going to be exciting to see what we end up getting.”
While hoping for a clone of her special jumper, Beattie also intends to back off the original’s workload soon.
“After this year we plan on him stepping down and teaching a little younger rider,” she said. “I don’t think he’ll be happy living outside. He’ll still want to compete in some capacity, but he does have to retire at some point, with four legs and his integrity and happiness.”