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.”
Seen And Heard Around The Show Grounds
- Kyle Carter cruising around the intermediate cross-country with Madison Park in their first event since the gelding injured himself at the 2011 Blenheim Horse Trials (England). Carter admitted he was nervous before heading out on cross-country because he wasn’t sure what to expect. “I was so nervous I actually asked Buck [who had the gelding as a youngster] to come out and watch the warm-up. I didn’t want to lie to myself and convince myself, so [to be able to have] an outside eye really helped,” he said. The gelding took a bit of a flyer over the drop into water, but Carter wasn’t too concerned. “He’s about as happy as he could be,” he said.
- Marilyn Little and RF Demeter finishing in third place in advanced, test A, division B. Little was on the entry list with Karen O’Connor’s Olympic mount Mr. Medicott, but they didn’t compete. Little has been show jumping “Cave” in Wellington, Fla. while O’Connor recuperates from an injury.
- Lainey Ashker competing two youngsters. Sadly, Ashker lost her promising prospect The Big Island last week when he was euthanized due to complications from colic surgery.
- Peter Atkins and HJ Hampton in their first advanced outing since last year. “Henny” jumped around the advanced course with plenty of go but incurred a stop at the D element of the water, a skinny chevron one stride from an up bank, that Atkins admitted was his fault. “After being a little wild at the start, Hen settled down and jumped a great round until the bank out of the water. I think he slipped on take off and then landed flat-footed with a long one stride to a skinny. I have to admit I kinda sat there like a stunned mullet and instead of heading left and jumping the black flag option I, well, anyway,” he said on his Facebook page.
- Sharon White keeping Bonnie Mosser’s former four-star mount, Merloch, tuned up at preliminary for his owner Charlotte Collier. White also piloted Wundermaske around his first advanced. Although he looked a little green through the water, he finished in fifth place in advanced, test A, division B.
- Schoolmasters hard at work. Critical Decision, Missy Ransehousen’s former advanced mount, made easy work of the show jumping course with David Ziegler in preliminary rider, division B. Dorothy Crowell’s 19-year-old advanced horse Radio Flyer II looked eager with Erin Strader in preliminary rider, division B, while Danielle Dichting’s beautiful gray, Tops, looked great for Nicole Doolittle in preliminary rider, division C.
- Andrea Leatherman out and about a week after suffering a fall at the Ocala Horse Trials. Buck rode her Mystic My in the intermediate, but he pulled up to give the gelding a schooling round.
- Flagmount’s Sterling Prince trying his heart out for Sara Kozumplik in his first advanced, ears flopping the whole way.
- New coach David O’Connor watching the advanced cross-country.
- Seventeen-year-old Rowdie Adams finishing in second place in advanced, test A, division B with No Money Down. After taking some time off from eventing last summer to try her hand at show jumping with Tracy Fenney and Mike McCormick, Adams decided to come back to the sport and try to take "Boxer" advanced. "He had from May until the rest of last year off," she said. "When I started riding him again, I forgot how much fun he is, so I decided I would come back and see if I could do it," she said. While she was nervous to head out on cross-country, Adams was prepared with help from coaches Mike Huber and Heather Morris and finished on her dressage score.
- Young rider Caroline Martin making easy work of the advanced with Buck's former ride, Titanium, and Quantum Solace. Martin bought Titanium from Buck last year and she was thrilled with her ride. "[My goal] was to have a nice, safe round and have fun. I was nervous, but once I left the startbox, I wasn't nervous anymore. I went out, and on both horses, I just had a smile on my face and they gave me all the confidence in the world," she said.
For full results, visit Evententries.com.