Who needs a groom when you’ve got a friend?
Bridget Hay of East Amwell and Kim Herslow of Stockton were rooming together, stabled their horses side-by-side and shared a tack room during an often-rainy Dressage at Devon. Both competed in the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I, while Bridget also rode in the FEI 5-year-old finals.
“Even though we compete against each other, it’s all fun,” said Kim, who couldn’t pinpoint whether their acquaintance was 15 years or 20, finally concluding, “it’s been a long time.”
Each was taking care of their own mounts (though Bridget also got help from her mother, Barbara), but were able to lend a hand to the other when needed.
“We haven’t done this in four years,” said Bridget, and things were different then. Riders regularly find themselves in the land of beginning again, and so it was with Bridget and Kim.
Four years ago, Bridget was showing her stallion Fitzhessen (like all her horses, a homebred). Kim was training Rosmarin, known as Reno, before he became a major star at last year’s Pan American Games as the team won gold and qualified the U.S. to compete in dressage at the Rio Olympics.
Sadly, Bridget’s stallion had to be put down after contracting a severe case of laminitis. This year, she showed his full brother, Faolan, a 7-year-old stallion by Freestyle, who finished 12th at Devon in a field of 40 in the PSG and 10th in the I-1.
Reno, a German import, was diagnosed after the Pan Ams with a cyst on the cruiciate ligament on his right stifle, and had to undergo surgery. He’s still rehabbing, but has moved up to cantering and hacking in the fields at Kim’s Uppercreek Farm.
So last week, Kim was showing All or Nothing (Ollie), a son of the stallion VDL Prestige who had been ridden by Netherlands’ star Edward Gal. Ollie belongs to Kim’s client, Ellen Reeder, but she offered the horse so Kim would have a chance to get back in the ring while Reno is on the sidelines and waiting to start training again with Debbie McDonald in Florida before year’s end.
Before you can go in any ring, however, you have to go in the warm-up area, and at Devon last Thursday, it was a mess.
When Bridget showed Fauna (who wound up second and third in the 5-year-old classes with a 79 and a 77.8) the rain was coming down and “water was gushing into my boots,” said Bridget. At the time Faolan was in the warm-up, “it was slop,” she observed.
Kim joked that before the GPS, Ollie “won the warm-up, his hind legs were hitting his belly” in an area flooded with puddles.
After that, however, “he kind of flattened out in the main ring with perfect footing. He lost a little bit of his gas,” she said, though he finished 19th of 40 in the class. He was still tired for the I-1, winding up 26th in that test.
“He was great about the whole thing,” Kim said of his third CDI.
While “he was not in the groove,” he still handled the unique atmosphere of D at D. His owner will make her debut on the horse this winter. She bought Ollie from a woman who got him for her 15-year-old son, before he decided he liked riding motorcycles more than riding horses.
Fauna is attached to Ollie, a good thing, because as Bridget pointed out, “I have to keep my mare and my stallion apart.”
Despite the weather, the two friends were having a good time.
“Devon’s my favorite show, even though it’s freezing cold and you get wet every year.” said Bridget.
“The random years that it’s sunny, you really appreciate those years.
“The atmosphere is awesome, but there are certain horses that I would think twice about taking here,” commented Bridget, who noted her horses were fine in the imposing Dixon Oval, and Kim said the same about the good-natured Ollie.
The duo tried to find fun where they could with a dinner out, but show life isn’t necessarily glamorous. For instance, Kim didn’t get to watch the Grands Prix for the Special and Freestyle on the Friday night because she had to be ready to show at 8 a.m. the next day.
Kim and Bridget went their separate ways after Devon, with Bridget heading to Kentucky next month for the national championships with both horses, while Kim went home before going to Florida. The two will reunite there, with Bridget basing herself in Kim’s barn for the winter circuit and continuing the thread of equestrian friendship that is so tightly woven through their lives.