Sunday, May. 19, 2024

Overseas Sails To Victory At Gulf Coast

Mindy Wurzburg finally reaps the rewards with her “dream horse.”

Patience is a virtue Mindy Wurzburg has in spades.

When she bought Overseas six years ago, his destiny was to be a reliable adult amateur mount for her.
But she had to wait a while for him to fulfill that destiny.

“Basically, I stayed off of him for four years,” Wurzburg said, laughing. Her trainer, Phoebe Sheets, showed “Leo” in the professional divisions until 2006, when Wurzburg finally took over the reins.
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Mindy Wurzburg finally reaps the rewards with her “dream horse.”

Patience is a virtue Mindy Wurzburg has in spades.

When she bought Overseas six years ago, his destiny was to be a reliable adult amateur mount for her.
But she had to wait a while for him to fulfill that destiny.

“Basically, I stayed off of him for four years,” Wurzburg said, laughing. Her trainer, Phoebe Sheets, showed “Leo” in the professional divisions until 2006, when Wurzburg finally took over the reins.

“I just kept thinking, ‘I’ll get my turn,’ ” Wurzburg said. “Every now and then, I would get on and hack him, but I wanted to let him do his thing.” Leo and Sheets won quite a bit, and Leo finished 2005 as second in the U.S. Equestrian Federation second year green hunter national standings.

“He’s just a wonderful guy. I’m very fortunate to have him. He’s my dream horse. He’s done his professional thing, and now he gets to tote me around,” Wurzburg said.

With Wurzburg, Leo has just kept winning, and they kicked off 2007 with the adult amateur, 36-45, circuit championship at the Gulf Coast Winter Series in Gulfport, Miss., which ran in February and March. Of the five weeks of the series, Wurzburg and Leo were champion three weeks and reserve once.

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Sheets and Wurzburg, Memphis, Tenn., found Leo, now 12, in Ralph Caristo’s barn. “He has an Italian passport, but he’s a Belgian Warmblood. He came from Holland, so I have no idea where he’s from!”

Wurzburg said. “I went to look at another horse, and they showed him to us, and we said, ‘Uh, I think he’s the one!’ Of course, we looked at a bunch more, but we kept coming back to him.”

Leo was green and hadn’t shown much, but “he was never a stupid young horse,” Wurzburg continued. “He’s always had a level head. It was fun to watch him mature and start to say, ‘OK, I know what my job is.’ He’s cocky and he has a little edge, so he likes to perform.”

There was a bit of a double-edged sword to Sheets’ success on Leo. “She rides so great, that I was wondering, ‘Will he know how to take a joke?’ But he obviously deals with it just fine,” Wurzburg said.
“The first year I rode him was a learning period. He’s got a really big step, and I don’t have to get a lick and go—I can just canter around and he walks down the lines. The hardest part was adjusting to his powerful jump and easy stride.

“The first class I ever did on him, over the first jump, he jumped up and I got caught unaware a little, and kind of got left and got him in the face,” she added. “He landed, shook his head, and kept going. By the third or fourth jump, I realized, ‘I better grab some braids here.’ So, ever since I started grabbing braids he’s been much happier.”

Leo lives with Sheets at her farm in Collierville, Tenn., since Wurzburg, 42, works full-time at Wurzburg Inc., the family industrial packaging and handling supplies business, which is celebrating its 100th year. She only rides on the weekends and has ridden with Sheets for almost 25 years.

One of Wurzburg’s favorite competitors is her sister, Cheryl Rubenstein. “She started the whole thing. We went to a day camp that had riding. She got really into it and kept taking lessons. I’m three years younger, so I kind of followed in big sister’s footsteps. She got a pony when she was 10. She moved up to a large pony, and I got Snowcone, her small pony. I started showing when I was 10. I blame her!” she said.

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Leo joined Wurzburg’s gang of chestnut horses when he arrived. She has a mare, Starstruck, who she still shows in the adults. “She’s half Welsh pony and half Westphalian, by Starman. She’s a pony warmblood— she’s got a lot of hair!” Wurzburg said laughing.

Wurzburg also had Fleetwood Gossip, who retired two years ago, and Funtime, a 24-year-old retiree.

A new young prospect, Stowaway, is moving up the ranks with Sheets, and Wurzburg hopes he’ll fill the big shoes of all of her other horses.

After beginning 2007 with the Gulf Coast circuit title, Wurzburg and Leo kept right on winning and finished as the top qualifiers for the North American League Adult Hunter Finals at the Pennsylvania National and the Washington (D.C.) International Horse Show Adult Hunter Finals. They took seventh in the NAL Finals and fourth in the WIHS.

In 2008, Wurzburg plans to spend three weeks in Wellington, Fla., showing at the Winter Equestrian Festival, and then return to the Gulf Coast shows for four weeks.

“They really try to improve something every year,” she said of the Gulf Coast series. “Every year that we’ve gone, it’s gotten better. And everyone’s very nice. They’re exhibitor-friendly; they bring pizza to the rings during the day, which, of course, everyone loves.”

Molly Sorge

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