Feb. 16 – Altoona, Fla.
Looking down the entry list of the Rocking Horse Winter II Horse Trials, Feb. 15-17 in Altoona, Fla., I somehow knew I’d be interviewing Buck Davidson. With six advanced horses across three divisions, including his longtime partner Ballynoe Castle RM, how could anyone bet against him?
Sure enough, Buck showed the strength of his string, topping two divisions of advanced, but with two vastly different horses.
In advanced, test A, division B, Carl and Cassandra Segal’s Ballynoe Castle RM started out the weekend in fourth place after dressage with a 30.0 and show jumped clear over a track that caused quite a few rails to drop for others. Although Buck wasn’t going for time on cross-country, he and "Reggie" added just 2.4 penalties to take the win over advanced first timers Rowdie Adams and No Money Down (35.90).
I caught up with Buck at his trailer after his marathon morning, and it was clear how much Reggie means to him. The two are so in sync, and he spoke candidly about their relationship. “At this point in life, he’s fairly professional at this. He’s 13 now, and he did Rocking Horse as his first advanced as an 8-year-old. He and I know each other and you sort of set the gear for advanced and away you go. There’s no point with him in trying to make him go slow. All you do is fight with him. He sort of sets the pace,” he said. “Every time I get on him, I take a second to realize how lucky I am. Not only is he a winner a lot, he’s just a perfect horse.”
While we chatted, Reggie took a nap, clearly proud of himself after his performance. “I’ve had him since he was 6. I just dread the day that I’m not going to have Reggie. What am I going to do? He’s just one of those horses that comes around, probably once in a lifetime. Whether he’s first or last, he’s going to be my favorite until the end of time,” Buck said.
He admitted that after riding five other horses around the advanced course, he needed to make sure he didn’t let down his guard just because he was on Reggie. “It’s nice whenever I get off the horse before to see Reggie waiting in the warm-up,” he said. “I know he knows how to do all this stuff, and that’s a little but comforting, but it’s my job not to mess him up. I like that problem. If I do a half-decent job every time, he’s the winner.”
There was one tense moment on course when Buck caught up with Werner Geven and Vilas Count. He saw him ahead at fence 22, a table before the ABCD elements at the water. For a moment, it looked like both riders would collide, but luckily, Geven jumped the table, then circled, and Buck was able to jump easily over the table and through the water.
His second win came aboard D.A. Adirmo, an 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Debbie Adams. Rocking Horse marked “Moe’s” first advanced, and he led the whole way through. The pair scored an impressive 29.7, added one rail in show jumping, and put in a double-clear cross-country round.
Buck started riding Moe at preliminary last year and competed him in the CCI** at the Dansko Fair Hill International (Md.) last fall where the gelding’s funny quirk got the best of him, and he incurred a runout. “He’s a funny horse about other horses. He screams the whole way around,” he said.
He wasn’t kidding. Moe whinnied as he galloped past me on course, but according to Buck, he was actually more focused today. “For him to step up today was a good start to his career. I’ve never ridden a horse that whinnies the whole way around and it’s a little disconcerting to tell you the truth,” he joked. “He needs somebody to kick him along a little bit. I wouldn’t say he’s the fastest horse, but because he doesn’t pull, he’s fairly fast.”
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