Buck Davidson was busy walking his cross-country course at the Horse Park Of New Jersey Horse Trials II when he got a call from student Natalia Neneman telling him he had 10 minutes before his dressage time on her Electric Lux.
Thankfully, Davidson had found the mare for Neneman several years earlier and had competed her once or twice, so he trusted her to be fine with no warm up.
“She’s an amazing little mare,” he said. “Somehow times got messed up, so I got back on my bike and threw on clothes and trotted right out of the barn, straight into the ring. I didn’t even get to trot around the ring; I just cantered down centerline. It wasn’t perfect, but she’s so good.”
Davidson and the 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Lux Z—Kilnamac Sue) put in a good enough test to sit 11th after dressage, then added just a handful of cross-country time penalties to win the advanced division of the event, held July 29-Aug. 1 in Allentown, New Jersey.
We caught up with Davidson, 46, a day after he’d been named to the reserve list for the FEI World Eventing Championship (Italy) in September with Katherine O’Brien’s Carlevo. He told us more about the weekend and what he’s been up to this year at his new farm in Ocala, Florida—including getting back to his family’s racing roots by helping to train a couple of potential steeplechasers to jump.
How did you get the ride on Electric Lux?
I rode her at [Chattahoochee Hills (Georgia) on July 8] in the intermediate. It helps Nat to see the mare doing it. They’ve had a few little bumps here and there in the road, and we decided to make sure everything’s hopefully going the way we want it to.
I’ve ridden her here and there before; I thought it would be a good time to do it. Nat’s going to take her back and do Great Meadow [Virginia] in a couple of weeks.
Nat’s done a really good job training her. She worked for me and rode for me, and I’ve taught her in clinics. We’ve been friends for 20 years. I found the horse, so I know everything that’s going on with it. It was easy to jump on and go.
She’s a beautiful jumper—just a perfect little package of a horse.
What did you think of the event this weekend? The intermediate and advanced divisions were quite competitive.
Without Millbrook [(New York) which was canceled this year] there’s a shortage of advanced events [in the summer]. Morgan [Rowsell, the course designer] did a really good job. They haven’t had much rain in New Jersey at all, so it was quite yellow on the ground, but they did a fantastic job aerating and getting everything ready.
The courses were certainly not a piece of cake. They put in a big effort, and I’m glad to see people turned up for it.
You were recently named as a reserve for the FEI World Eventing Championship with Carlevo. How does that feel, and how has his season been going?
He’s great. He’s as good as he’s ever been. He’s just a little bit short of that speed [on cross-country], but he’s been very consistent for me and is a super reliable horse.
He’s going to go to Great Meadow, then I have two students [Hawley Bennett-Awad and Holly Jacks-Smither] who are on the Canadian team for the world championships, so I think I’m going to go to Italy in a coaching capacity, so that’s exciting.
I’m not sure [about fall plans with Carlevo]. I have to talk to his owner and see what they want to do. Maybe Morven Park [CCI4*-L (Virginia)].
Tell me about your string of horses and your business these days.
I’ve sold a few, and I have a couple of nice younger ones coming up. Cooley Candyman was second at Morven [CCI4*-L] last year but got hurt this spring, but he’s back working.
I’m really excited about Sorocaima, who went to Kentucky (CCI5*-L]. Hopefully I can get a couple more nice young horses. I don’t want to ride 800 horses anymore. I have two kids, and I’d like to spend some time with them. I’d like to ride fewer horses but better horses.
I’m in Ocala right now. I went up to Pennsylvania and left some horses there, so then I’ll do Great Meadow and go back to Pennsylvania and stay there through Fair Hill [Maryland].
I own a farm in Ocala now, and the kids are in school, and they don’t get out until later. I used to go back to Pennsylvania from Kentucky to get ready for [Jersey Fresh International], then have all the horses come up, but now there’s no New Jersey, so I come back from Kentucky to go to Tryon [North Carolina], which is closer from Florida.
I’ll go back up for the fall season—it just has to do with the event schedule.
We’re doing a Young Event Horse class [at my farm] on Aug. 16. There’s a group of people down here that have young horses that need to get out, so I thought I’d just do it at my place.
You had a chance to work with some racehorses this winter. Tell me about that.
Some friends [Greg and Caroline Bentley] up in Pennsylvania have a bunch of racehorses and wanted me to teach [two of] them to jump. They’re both 4-year-olds. They sent them down for the winter to keep progressing in their jumping. I have a track here, so I could gallop them and get them ready [to try steeplechasing]. Then I sent them home once my season started.
[Aerial Assault] is training with Michael Matz, and the other we called King.
It was fun. I used to race ride as a kid. I worked in England for some trainers. I’ve been around it my whole life, and it’s something I’ve always been interested in. This was the first time I did it for real.