Kim Severson’s legendary partner, Winsome Adante, earned the title of the Chronicle’s Overall and Eventing Horse Of The Year in 2004, adding to his Eventing Horse of The Year title from COTH from 2001. After learning of his death on Sept. 25, we take a look back at an excerpt from Beth Rasin’s story, published during his glory days.
You don’t have to be anthropomorphic to believe that Winsome Adante recognizes when he’s at an important competition. He’s exclled in every three-day he’s contested—in fact, he’s been first or second at every one—except for the 2002 World Equestrian Games (Spain), where he finished sixth but still contributed to the team gold medal.
Even some of the very best horses in the sport—Custom Made, Molokai, Biko, Dr. Peaches, Ready Teddy—have stopped, fallen, or been eliminated at a major event; that’s just the nature of the sport. Winsome Adante’s freakishly brilliant record over the last five years—without blemish—defies the odds of an unpredictable game.
“More impressive [than any one win] is how he’s always consistently there,” said Severson, 30, who brought him from a preliminary horse to a two-time winner of the Rolex Kentucky CCI5*-L and the Olympic silver medalist in 2004. “That’s more impressive to me than a horse who wins the World Championships or Olympics, and that’s all you hear of them.”
David O’Connor, one of Severson’s teammates in 2002, has watched Winsome Adante and Severson in action for many years.
“You’re rubbing your hands together when he and Kim are on a team together beside you. You know he’ll have a good dressage, one of the fastest cross-country rounds, and his show jumping keeps getting better and better,” said O’Connor. “He’s a top-five horse, and if you have one or two of those on your team, you’re going to win gold medals, which is exactly what happened at the WEG.”
But Severson and “Dan’s” owner, Linda Wachtmeister, weren’t sure what they had when they bought the English-bred, bay gelding from Jan and Craig Thompson in 1999. The Thompsons had just imported the horse though respected English horse dealer Susie Pragnell.
“Jan and Craig called to say they had a nice horse, and I should come see him,” recalled Severson. “He wasn’t anything mind-blowing, but he seemed nice enough to resell or do whatever he was going to do.”
But things didn’t start out so well for Dan when he first arrived at Plain Dealing Farm in Scottsville, Virginia. He started having soundness issues and required surgery on both ankles to remove chips. Since then, though, he’s been uncommonly sound for an upper-level event horse.
Dan contested his first three-day event, the Radnor Hunt CCI3*-L (Pennsylvania), in the fall of 2000. He won that event, and Severson took aim on the Foxhall Cup CCI4*-L (Georgia) in the spring of 2001. When she finished second there, she decided this horse wouldn’t be for sale. “I thought, ‘This could be a really nice horse,’ ” said Severson.
He rewarded her judgment by winning the Blenheim Palace CCI4*-L (England) five months later. Then, in the spring of 2002, Dan emphatically showed that he was a top horse by winning the Rolex Kentucky CCI5*-L. He was a shoe-in for the 2002 World Equestrian Games (Spain), and his finish there (with the fastest cross-country round) would be the highlight of most horse’s careers.
But in 2003, Dan’s fairytale-like career hit the inevitable bad luck that seems endemic to sport horses. Early that spring, he’d suffered from atrial fibrillation after a gallop.
“He had to have his heart shocked back into a normal rhythm,” said Severson.
The fibrillation wasn’t a permanent problem, but Dan didn’t do a three-day that spring anyway, because Severson broke her leg competing another horse at the Plantation Field Horse Trials (Pennsylvania). She was forced to stay at home instead of defending Dan’s 2002 Kentucky win.
Severson was bravely back aboard in August, in time to win at Over The Walls (Massachusetts) with Dan, on their way to the Burghley Horse Trials CCI5*-L (England). But while in England, before he could compete at Burghley, Dan colicked. Within 30 minutes of arriving at a veterinary clinic, he was in surgery for an impaction in his small colon.
“People talk about horses who’ve had colic surgery, that they don’t come back the same, so you always wonder,” said Severson. “But he didn’t have any of his intestines removed [which may have helped his recovery].”
Dan proved he was back to being competitive in 2004 when he finished second in the North Georgia CCI4*-S in April, and then won Rolex for the second time in his career that May. As the celebrations after Kentucky quieted, Severson focused on her bigger goal for the year—the Olympics. By winning the silver medal and leading the team to the bronze, Dan proved his place as one of the top horses in the world.
Of course, that win wasn’t a surprise to most people, including Jim Wofford. “There wasn’t any doubt in my mind [that Kim and Dan were] going to win—it was a done deal,” he said. “There’s not many horses you can say that about.”
Wofford admires the horse’s intelligence and comprehension of the sport: “He understands what he is doing in all three phases and has the superlative physical capabilities to do it.”
And he has a rider on his back who can put away the pressure of being a favorite, whether she’s at Kentucky, the Olympics, or anywhere else.
“He’s not a horse you stop and think, ‘That’s the nicest horse.’ He does it because of his heart and Kim’s training,” said O’Connor.
This article appeared in the February 4, 2005, issue of The Chronicle of the Horse as part of our American Horses In Sport issue.
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