Ellen Doughty-Hume’s four-star mount Sir Oberon has jumped plenty of blue numbered cross country jumps in his life. But white numbered jumps? Never.
Ellen started the now 15-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred gelding at Training level and they’ve never looked back — until this weekend at Three Lakes February H.T. Ellen gave the ride on “Obie” to her good friend Katherine Zapala.
The two went to highschool together in Michigan, and they remained close even after Ellen relocated to Rockwall, Texas. Katherine, who still lives in Michigan, has groomed for Ellen at Rolex and came down to Ocala last week to visit. Ellen surprised her by offering her the Novice ride of a lifetime.
Katherine recalls, “Ellen was competing at Three Lakes and said, ‘Why don’t you just ride Obie in the show? I was like, ‘OK, I’m not going to say no to that!'”
Katherine is an accomplished eventer in her own right, having logged plenty of Prelim miles on her horse The Contender. She had only ridden Obie once, about eight years ago, but got into Ocala on Friday with just enough daylight left to pop him over a few jumps.
“I knew he could do it — my main goal was just to not embarrass Obie!,” Katherine laughs.
The pair scored an admirable 27.8 in the dressage: “I just felt pretty and effortless and like I could just sit up there and smile.”
Katherine says she was the most nervous about show jumping: “I knew if we had a rail, it would be my fault!”
But cross country was smooth sailing and they finished fourth in their Open Novice division.
“It was one of the most fun rounds I’ve ever had,” she says. “I was kind of giggling the whole way around the course. Our joke all weekend long was that this was Obie’s Novice debut. I could tell he was enjoying himself, and it was like he really just took care of me.”
All giggles aside, Katherine explains that it was an honor and an incredibly meaningful gesture. 2016 was a rough year for her: She lost her father and her coach, Phillipa Humphreys.
“So this was really special,” Katherine says. “Not too many people just let you hop on their four-star horse and have a go at it. It was a gift.”