Will Faudree Opens Up About Antigua, His Horse Of A Lifetime

May 28, 2021 - 7:56 AM

Whether they are top professionals or adult amateurs, most riders can point to a special horse that made them—the one who gave them their foundation and helped achieve their goals.

For three-day event rider Will Faudree, that horse was Antigua, a bay, off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding (Match Winner—Great Mistake, Dorset) that brought him more success than he ever dreamed of and helped shape him into the rider, and person, he is today.

Faudree and “Brad’s” accomplishments include three Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event completions, double-clear cross-country rounds at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (England) and the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (England), as well as a team gold medal at the 2003 Pan American Games (Maryland) and a fourth-placed team finish at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games (Germany).

On May 8, Faudree said goodbye to Brad, who was 32 years old and enjoying his retirement at Gavilan Farm in Southern Pines, North Carolina.

 Faudree shared his favorite memories of Brad and reflected on his partnership with the horse that made him.


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” ‘Brad’ finished every cross-country course he started, and he never had a jumping penalty. Not because I rode him to good distances and made it easy for him, but he just found a way to do it, and that’s what he instilled in me: Find a way to get it done,” Will Faudree says of his longtime partner, Antigua. Photo Courtesy Of Will Faudree

By 2001, I had graduated from high school and gone to Young Riders on my horse I’d gotten off the track. I was at Phillip Dutton’s, and it was after Radnor (Pennsylvania) that year where he said, “Look, if you want to do this, you’ve got to get a horse that will teach you something.”

We’d looked at a couple horses here locally in the States. He knew of Brad from the Sydney Olympics. He was riding for Australia then, and the horse was part of their team camps. He was 10 years old. His owner Karen Owen was starting a family. He contacted her and said he had a kid who’d give him a great home.

I was in college, but that only lasted a couple weeks. My parents said, “Look, it’s either college or this horse, take your pick.”

So, off we went. Colbie Saddington, Phillip’s head groom at the time, went with me. It was my first time leaving the continent. We flew to Australia. [Owen] had two—him and a chestnut, and she was trying to push the chestnut on me.

I remember seeing Brad standing tied to the lorry, and I asked a thousand questions—what his barn name was, did he like treats—I was that kid who wanted a friendship with the horse.

I just remember looking at him and seeing this educator, this old soul. There was something about him that really stuck with me. There was never a question that he wasn’t going to come home with me. I had an instant connection with him. It was like an old shoe—it just fit.

I knew a lot of wrong feelings [in my riding education]. I was like a sponge with that horse. I remember somebody said to me, “Forget everything you know, and let this horse teach you everything.”

He laid the foundation of the career I’d dreamed of as a kid and taught me what a work ethic was. He showed up to work every day. The success I had on him at the end of his career, it was because of him. I was merely a passenger. I was a student, and he was such a professor. Every day I rode that horse I got a lesson, and what a gift.

[Going to my first Kentucky in 2003,] I was 21 years old and thinking that I’m the greatest thing in the world because this horse is amazing, and I’m taken along for the ride.

I had done Foxhall (Georgia) and Fair Hill (Maryland) in 2002, and I won the Markham Trophy for the highest-placed young rider at both. I was fourth at Fair Hill.

I had never been to a five-star. I’d never seen one. I had heard it was going to be huge and look unjumpable and be the biggest thing. I just had so much trust and faith in Brad. I remember walking the course and thinking it was really big. I was worried about getting lost on Phase C because you had to go through a bunch of gates and different fields.

At the 10-minute box, I got off of him. I sat down and visualized my course. Nina Gardner, Phillip’s longtime owner, was there, and I remember they were calling me, and she put her hand on my back. And then I went out on cross-country.

I was so nervous about all the bounces on cross-country. I think I left strides out of every combination! But there was never a question in my mind that we weren’t going to go clear and inside the time. I didn’t know it to be any other way because Brad didn’t let me believe it was any other way. That’s a huge gift that I really look back on now.

After Kentucky in 2003, I got shortlisted for the Pan American Games, and I had gotten a job offer from Jim Cogdell, who owns The Fork. I got put on the winter training list, and the training session was at Bobby Costello’s Tanglewood Farm in Southern Pines. Kim Severson and Bobby kind of took me under their wing.

I worked at The Fork in the lead up to the Pan Ams and started to get some help from Bobby. I won the selection trials in Southern Pines and was named to the team.

Making The Team

Talk about a childhood dream. I’d always wanted a pinque coat. I was 21 when I got it, and I had no idea the pressure that that would put on me. It was Brad who reminded me that, it’s nothing fancy, you’re just going to do your job. Just show up and do the work. He taught me what it meant to enjoy the work and do the work. All the other stuff is a bonus, but enjoy the process, and do the work and just keep going. It’s all you can do.

After the Pan Ams, Jim went more the direction of running an event. I had really liked Southern Pines, so Brad and I moved there, and I rented a place and started up. He was there every year at the start of my career and laid the foundation and the work ethic that it would take to have a career in this sport.

I did Kentucky in 2004 [finishing 10th,] then I went to the Athens Olympics as a traveling reserve. I went to Burghley from there, and he got a hot nail. We came home, and when I was in Athens, my barn in Southern Pines that I had rented burned down, so I lost everything. I lived in the apartment above the barn. Luckily my horses were elsewhere, but I came back from Athens, and I didn’t have anything. All I came home with was Brad.

I had made friends with several of the Australians, and they had invited me to come down to Australia and do a catch ride at Adelaide. I flew in the middle of September and spent a couple of months with Stuart Tinney.

Then we went to Badminton in 2005. I had seen videos as a kid and always wanted to do it. I rode there the last year it was long format and had the full-on experience. I have not been back since, but I’m looking forward to going back some day.

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Faudree and Brad at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Germany. Chronicle Archives Photo

I’d had the team experience going to Athens. Kim and Amy Tryon really took me under their wing at the 2006 World Equestrian Games. Amy and I were very close friends. She helped me a lot with him and understanding the team stuff. The team in Aachen—it was intense, and it was a massive track. I was inexperienced, but there was no other way than to just go and do it. It was a great team experience. We missed a medal by 0.4 points, which was annoying!

In 2007, I had gone double-clear on cross-country at Kentucky, but he had thrown a shoe and stepped on the clip, so I withdrew before the show jumping. He was shortlisted for the Pan Am Games, but I withdrew from contention because I wanted to do Burghley as one of his last big things, and he was double-clear around Burghley.

I did go back to Kentucky in 2008, but he had an abscess, so I withdrew before the first jog, and then he got shortlisted for the Olympic Games that summer. The last event I did with him was the mandatory outing at The Fork. I didn’t get selected to go—he was 19 years old. I was one of the reserves that had to wait until everybody loaded up.

I remember driving back to Southern Pines, and I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t figure out what it was, and I knew that that was the end of my competitive career with him, and really an unknown of where I would go from there. I didn’t have a big-time owner at the time. I knew how hard it was. I had just bought my farm, and I had a few young horses.

Surviving An End, Finding A Beginning

I did the old Fair Hill two-star that fall with McGlade and Pawlow, and Brad had retired. It was the ending of a chapter of my life, and I didn’t know what the next chapter was going to be.

Then I lost my sister, Kristen Faudree, to cancer in November. She and I were really close. She would come to Fair Hill all the time and went to Badminton and WEG. She was one of my biggest supporters.

Right before I left to go to Texas, I had turned Brad out. He was the first horse I turned out in the field of the new farm. He stayed in work but didn’t compete again.

I went back to Texas, and my sister passed away, and I was thinking, “What now? Do I just stay home and stay in Texas? Do I sell this farm? I have nothing.”

I went and taught a clinic two weeks after she died. I remember thinking, “Oh, I’m just going to cancel the clinic.” A part of me, in what I learned from Brad, was that you’ve just got to keep going with the hand you’re dealt. This sucks, but keep going.

I taught the clinic, and I met Jennifer Mosing there. She ended up buying Pawlow from me for me to continue to ride, and that started the next chapter of my life.

I don’t think it was a coincidence I met Jennifer two weeks after Kristen died. The last thing she said to me when she decided no more treatment, I was the one that was like, “No, you’re getting better; you can fight this,” I was sobbing, and she squeezed my hand and she goes, “I can do so much more for you from somewhere else,” and that was the last thing she said to me.

I always look for signs and comfort. After Brad died, Mark Hart texted me. He [owned horses for Amy Tryon], and I became very close with him through Amy. He was a big help when my sister was sick.

When he saw the news that Brad had died, he said, “I’m a thousand percent sure that Amy Tryon is teaching your sister a lesson on Brad right now.”

That’s a pretty powerful image for me.

When I talk about the work ethic and the phrase, “keep going,” Brad finished every cross-country he started, and he never had a jumping penalty. Not because I rode him to good distances and made it easy for him, but he just found a way to do it, and that’s what he instilled in me: Find a way to get it done.

I’ve been so fortunate in my career to be coached by some of the best people in the world—Bobby Costello, Phillip Dutton, Karen and David O’Connor, Laura Kraut, Mark Phillips, Sandy Phillips. I’ve had phenomenal instruction in my life, and I’ve needed that as I’ve gotten older and had other horses, but looking back on it now, he was such an educator to me. You show up to work every day, and you expect it to go the way you plan, and when it doesn’t go to plan, you just keep going. You have to think in slow motion and keep going through it, and that’s something that Brad really instilled in me, right from the start.

Saying Goodbye

He looked amazing. He came in every day. He had to, or he’d wind the whole farm up. He had his routine.

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Old man Brad enjoying a spa session with Faudree’s groom, Nat Varcoe-Cox. Photo Courtesy Of Will Faudree

We turned him out, and he was fine. I was back at my house, and my head groom called me and said she didn’t think he was feeling great. He was laying down. I got him up, and he didn’t want food, and he laid back down.

He didn’t look painful. He was really peaceful. We gave him Banamine and walked him around. He kept nudging me. Anyone who ever saw us, I could stand in front of his stall, and he would rub my back with his forehead.

He finally went to the bathroom, and I thought we were good. He trotted behind me in the paddock and nudged me again. I started jogging and I went to this tree, and he trotted after me. He circled around the tree, and I ran to another tree, and he trotted after me. He was just following me around.

I thought he was OK. I walked back to hop the fence, and he walked to the corner with me, and I took three steps, and he laid back down.

I called my vet. We gave him something for his stomach. He nudged my chest with his head and laid back down, so I told my vet she needed to come out. I just sat with him for an hour and a half. He wasn’t painful. He had his head in my lap. I just talked to him.

Everybody came and checked on me, but I was alright. I talked with him about our whole career. It was really a cool moment. I’m so lucky I was here for that. My vet got here, and we got him up, and she tubed him. He had a displaced colon. We gave him some fluids. If he laid back down, that was our sign.

He walked me into his paddock and laid back down. Everybody left me alone, then she came over, and I knew it was time. He wasn’t painful, but he was just done. I was at peace with it. She went to get some stuff, and came walking back.

Everybody was really worried about me, but I was alright. I was going to be there for my friend who was there for me all those years. They got about 20 yards from us, and Brad got up. He hadn’t gotten up on his own all afternoon.

He ran out of the open gate, trotted past the vet, past the girls. He went into the barn, went into his stall and peed. He came out, and I had his halter, and he was nudging me. I put his halter on him. Nobody was saying anything because everybody was in a little bit of shock. He walked me out.

My main barn has an outer aisle, and the stalls are in the middle of it. He walked me out of the barn, around the front of the barn, then I have a little barn, and he walked me through the aisle of the little barn and back to the front of the main barn, into the front aisleway, around the working student apartment, down past the tack room and feed room.

The girls and my vet were like, “What is going on?” He was dragging me along. He walked back towards his paddock. He did one circle around me and laid down. I had his head on my lap, and he pushed his head into my stomach, and then put his head down between his knees. I was sobbing at this point.

Everybody came over and huddled around me. I said, “I think he just died.” My vet got her stethoscope out and listened to him for awhile and looked at me and nodded. It was just such a fitting moment. It was so Brad. He was going out on his own terms, and he took me for one last tour of what he gave me.

What a war horse. I’ll never know what would have happened if I wasn’t here. But he knew I was home. It was the most perfect final chapter of the book he and I had together. It was the most amazing thing.

He was buried right where he laid down, and he’s got a big headstone there now that every horse has spooked at! I think Brad did that on purpose because he liked to wind all the young horses up.

It was a fairytale career with him from start to finish. I owe everything to that horse. I owe a lot to the people who have helped me and supported me over the years, but I am who I am because of that horse.

I owe my career to Antigua, and I have a huge gratitude for a three-second comment that Karen Stives said to me in 2006 after I got back from the Aachen World Games. She congratulated me on Aachen and said, “Don’t expect your next horse to fill his shoes.”

I’ve never forgotten that. I take that to every horse I sit on. They’re all individuals, and I’m just so grateful for the foundation that Antigua laid.

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