Throwback Thursday: Remembering Strapless' Reign Over The Hunter Ring

Feb 11, 2022 - 10:29 AM

At the beginning of the 21st century there was one horse who stood out in any hunter class: Strapless. She won with owner Clara Lindner, now Belden, in the junior hunter and amateur-owner hunter divisions, and she won with young professional Emily Williams in the regular working hunter ring.

The Lindner family’s warmblood mare of unrecorded breeding won the AHJF Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular in Wellington, Florida, a record-setting four times in a row, from 2001-2004. That night class, first held 25 years ago and long the premier hunter class of the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida), is now known as the WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular. The 2022 edition will take place Saturday, Feb. 19, at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

GOOD WEB-Strapless-Ann-Gittins153
Strapless won the AHJF Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular (Fla.) three times with Emily Williams (pictured) and once with Clara Lindner. Anne Gittins Photo

“She was truly the horse of a lifetime,” Williams told the Chronicle in 2015. “Those night classes, I swear, she knew and loved them.

“She’d go in and shake her head on the opening circle, and I’d know she was going to be good,” Williams continued. “Emilie Hamilton, who groomed her, called it her dipsy doodle. If she did that, I knew it was on, and I could count on her. She would give 110 percent.”

Strapless had a knack for picking up a gallop and keeping her pace around the course.

“I love to watch somebody gallop,” Williams said. “Strapless created that because you had to gallop a little bit with her, and it made it exciting to watch. I think that’s what people loved about her. I like to watch and ride exciting rounds, and to have hunters ridden with pace, and it seems to me like that’s being forgotten a bit. I’d love to see that brought back into the sport more.”

Watch Strapless’s second round in the AHJF Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular from 2003, which earned scores of 95, 96 and 97.

When Williams was given the ride on Strapless by Tom Wright, the trainer for the Lindner family, she was a brand-new professional in her early 20s, having won the Pessoa/USEF Medal (Pennsylvania) and NHSF/ASPCA Maclay Finals (New York) in 1999. Strapless jump-started her professional career in a big way.

“She liked to stand off of the jumps on her own. She studied the jumps a lot,” Williams said. “She wasn’t the largest-strided horse I ever sat on, so you had to believe she was going to do it. You couldn’t tell her, ‘We’ve got to go,’ because she’d be like, ‘Mmm, no, maybe not.’ It had to be her idea. What was so great about her was that I could really gallop and she would always hold herself off the jumps.

“She gave you an incredible feeling,” she added. “She’d almost prop a little bit at the base of the jump, and then I literally would hold onto the braids, she’d come up through the withers so much,” she added. “It was just explosive. And she’d jump the last jump higher than the first jump. She was a special horse, just a freak of nature.”

Wright said the diminutive Strapless—she isn’t quite 16 hands—taught him a lot about training hunters that he carried on to future superstars like Private Practice, who won the Spectacular in 2019.

“What I found with her, is you could have her flatting and be very fit but once you started jumping, she had to show two weeks at 4’ before she was at her best,” Wright said. “The first week you’d go, ‘Wow, does she have enough scope and stride to do this? She looked limited.’ The second week we’d be pretty darn good. You could give her a week off, and she’d come right back fit as a fiddle or could show the third week, and she was as good as could be. I realized what was making her fit wasn’t just the hind end—because we did lots of hills with her—but it was the jumping that made her fit.”

Strapless, now 29, is living at a retirement farm in Nashville, Tennessee, after having two foals. She’s also immortalized as a Breyer model horse.

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