Three former upper-level stars competed in the Junior Training divisions at Millbrook Horse Trials last weekend, and it’s clear they are loving life with their new riders at the lower levels of the sport, not to mention being absolutely doted on and spoiled rotten in this latest chapter of their lives.
Read on about Annie Jones’ The Foreman, who is now campaigning with Alice Roosevelt after a successful four-star career with Phillip Dutton; Amy Ruth Borun’s former Rolex mount Santa’s Playboy, who is now competing with Phillip’s daughter, Olivia; and Indie, who previously competed at the two-star level with Jennie Brannigan and is now aiming for Young Riders with Sloane Pierpont.
Alice Roosevelt and The Foreman
The Foreman hardly needs an introduction. The 1996 American Thoroughbred gelding is a legend in U.S. eventing, having placed second at both Rolex CCI4* and Burghley CCI4* in 2005, won Fair Hill CCI3* in 2007, and finished sixth at Rolex CCI4* in 2010. He popped a splint in 2008, which Phillip said always made him tough to manage for the upper levels after that.
“Chip” officially retired from the upper levels in 2012 at 16 years old. Still sound for the lower levels, Phillip’s stepdaughter Lee Lee Jones took over the ride that year at Training and Preliminary level. Lee Lee and Chip competed together successfully for two seasons in 2012 and 2013 before the horse reluctantly settled in to start his retirement — or so they thought.
When 14-year-old Alice Roosevelt was searching for an experienced partner to gain some Training mileage this past winter in Aiken, owner Annie Jones thought Chip, 19 years old this year but still full of spunk, might be the perfect horse for a job. Alice competed him once at Novice at Sporting Days in February before they stepped up to Training level in March at Pine Top. They’ve been having a blast together ever since.
“It’s been really fun and educational to get to ride him, especially in dressage because he knows all the different movements,” Alice said. “It’s also been really cool to compete him because he saves you a lot over the jumps. When you make a mistake, it’s not game over. He really takes care of you on course.”
Chip is still keen as ever on cross country at 19 years old, and Alice has to have a helper lead him into the start box because he won’t walk in on his own. But once they leave the start box, Chip is all business. “He’s really good on cross country and knows his job,” Alice said. “Sometimes he’ll lock onto Advanced jumps, and he pricks his ears like he’s saying, ‘Let’s go there!'”
Alice and Chip have completed five Training level events together now, placing in the top five each time. They most recently placed fourth in the Junior Training A division at Millbrook Horse Trials this past weekend, finishing on their dressage score of 37.5.
Alice said there’s no big goal for the rest of this season with Chip. She is just enjoying the ride and trying to soak up every ounce of wisdom she can, adding that she is incredibly grateful to Annie for the opportunity to compete such an incredible horse.
Olivia Dutton and Santa’s Playboy
Olivia Dutton, 13, successfully completed her first Training level event in March of this year with The Dude, better known as “Dougal,” the 15-year-old Connemara/Irish Cob gelding she has leased from Cathy Schaffer for the past two years since competing in her very first Beginner Novice.
Amy Ruth Borun, who Phillip Dutton has coached for many years, retired her Rolex partner Santa’s Playboy from the upper levels in 2013. But Amy Ruth knew the off-track Thoroughbred gelding, who is 17 years old this year, wasn’t ready to fully retire. With Olivia ready to gain some experience on bigger horses, the timing seemed right this past winter to see if Olivia and “Santa” might be a good match.
“He’s very different from my pony, and he was a lot easier to get round and go forward,” Olivia said. “He just felt like a horse. He jumps bigger than Dougal, and he’s forward to the fences, but I can keep him patient to jumps, and I don’t have to kick him forward to get over fences like I do with Dougal.”
Olivia and Santa completed their first competition together at Plantation Field’s April horse trials in the Junior Novice division, where they finished second. Then they moved up to Training at Fair Hill in May, finishing 16th. They recorded their first double clear on cross country at Surefire in June to finish fifth in their division.
“Amy Ruth has helped me a lot with taking care of him and letting me know what he needs,” Olivia said, adding that having Phillip coach her is also very helpful because he knows the horse so well. “My dad knows how Santa is and what I need to do to get him to be good and look good. He helps me a lot with jumping, especially in show jumping and helping me keep Santa collected.”
Olivia and Santa completed their third event at Training level this past weekend at Millbrook, where they finished second in the Junior Training B division on their dressage score of 30.9. “Millbrook was my favorite event with him so far because we had our best show jumping round, and I had a lot of fun on cross country,” Olivia said. “He gets excited in the start box, but then when he gets out there, I can tell that he’s having fun, and he listens to what I want him to do.”
As Phillip puts it: “Olivia is very at home on a horse. There’s no tension, no fear at all with her. She and Santa just gel so well together.” Olivia said she’s hoping to aim for some Preliminary/Training events later this year with her eye on an eventual move up to Prelim with Santa. In the meantime, she’s looking forward to continuing to getting to know him better.
“He’s very sweet, and he always likes to give hugs. He’ll snuggle up right next to you,” Olivia said. “Every time before I put on his bridle, he tries to give me a hug so he can get out of putting his bridle on. He’s very smart about that. He’s really fun to ride, and I’m so thankful to Amy Ruth for letting me compete him.”
Sloane Pierpont and Indie
You’ll remember Indie as Jennie Brannigan’s standout two-star partner who dominated at that level a couple years ago, placing third in the Fair Hill CCI2* in 2012 and winning the Red Hills CIC2* and Poplar Place CIC2* in 2013. But when it seemed like the 10-year-old Dutch gelding wasn’t destined for the upper levels, Jennie and his owners Tim and Nina Gardner decided to find him a home with a lower-level rider.
“I didn’t think he was going to be able to compete at the top level of the sport, and the Gardners and I really loved him and wanted him to stay sound and happy for a long time,” Jennie said. “Michael Matz’s daughter Michelle texted me out of the blue staying she had a friend looking for a horse to do the one-star at Young Riders and asked if I might know of a suitable horse. I told her, ‘I might have the perfect horse!'”
Sloane Pierpont, 15, from Connecticut had been searching unsuccessfully for the right horse for two months, but things seemed to click right away when she tried Indie. “After just doing flat work on him, I knew that we had a real connection that I hadn’t felt with other horses, and after trying him the second time, it was a no-brainer that he was the right horse,” Sloane said.
The Pierpont family purchased Indie three weeks ago, and he has since been renamed Christmas in July — since Christmas came early for Sloane this year! — though they have kept Indie as his barn name. Sloane competed him in Novice at the Horse Park of New Jersey the week before Millbrook and then competed in the Junior Training B division at Millbrook, where they finished fourth on their dressage score of 31.1.
“Indie has surprised me at both competitions that we have been to,” Sloane said. “Once in the start box, he is instantly in the zone. The cross country was the best part for us because of his willingness and need for speed he brings on out on the course. He is constantly surprising me in the best ways possible.”
Now Sloane and Indie will be working toward obtaining their qualifying scores at the Preliminary and one-star level in order to compete at the 2016 North American Junior and Young Rider Championships. Jennie said she would love nothing more than to see Sloane and Indie compete at Young Riders and will be cheering them on the whole way.
“I think he would have kept doing what I wanted him to do at the highest level, but I don’t think he would have been doing it for his own love of the game,” Jennie said. “I really wanted him to go to a home where he would be loved, and now I show up to the horse show and the whole family is petting him and loving on him. It’s pretty special how it all worked out.”