EN’s Got Talent: Kelly Pugh and Corazon

We hear all the time about horses at the top of the sport, but what about the next generation of equine talent? EN’s Got Talent introduces the future superstars of the sport, interviewing riders about how they’re tackling training with these youngsters. Have you spotted a spectacular young horse at an event you think should be highlighted in this column? Tip me at [email protected].

Kelly Pugh and Corazon. Photo by Sally Spickard. Kelly Pugh and Corazon. Photo by Sally Spickard.

The 8-year-old KWPN gelding owned by David and Candace Garrett is aptly nicknamed “Toddy” in the barn, after Sir Mark Todd, who won the Olympics the year he was born. He’s got the big shoes of his namesake to fill, but Kelly Pugh’s newest ride, Corazon, is well on his way to making big dreams come true.

Earlier this year, Kelly went on a horse shopping trip with the Garrett family as well as her mother and trainer, Dayna Lynd Pugh, who were also looking for a new ride for their daughter, Holly. “We usually go to Ireland, but this time we decided to try England,” Kelly recalled.

Using Mike and Emma Winter as their agents for the trip, the group saw many quality horses, making the end decision quite difficult for Kelly, who was new to the concept of shopping for a horse for herself.

“I’m not super used to trying horses,” Kelly said. “All my life, I’ve ridden whatever I’ve been given, so it’s a different experience trying them.”

Kelly found several horses she liked, making her decision all the more difficult — until she sat on Corazon.

Corazon, who is by Vaillant, was a former ride of New Zealand rider Lucy Jackson. He had been ridden by an amateur who started a family, leading Lucy to take over the ride and take the horse through the CCI2* level. Prior to the sale, Lucy was preparing to move Corazon up to the Advanced level.

Kelly has previously ridden to the three-star level aboard Copycat Chloe, and her goal with this trip was to find a new horse to potentially take her back to that level and beyond.

“I kind of went with a list (of criteria),” she said. “I found several horses that I liked, but when I sat on (Corazon), I just knew. People talk about getting ‘that feeling’ and that’s what I had, the one where you just don’t want to get off.

“I wanted something that enjoyed its job and was confident. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time with other horses trying to ‘convince’ them that they wanted to do this — I wanted something that really wanted to do it.”

Corazon matched Kelly’s selective criteria, and he was soon on his way to California where Kelly bases her business. After arriving in the States in May, Kelly set to work getting to know her new horse, thanks to the support of her owners, David and Candace.

“David and Candace are phenomenal owners,” Kelly said. “They don’t put any pressure on. They want me to do well, but they trust my program and what my plan is, which is great.”

On a spur of the moment decision, Kelly decided to take Corazon to his first U.S. event, the Prelim division at Shepherd Ranch. “Toddy” added just four jump penalties in the show jumping to take home fourth place after scoring a 27.3 in the dressage, so the partnership definitely started off on the right foot.

From there, it was on to Montana to contest the CCI* at Rebecca Farm. Kelly played it conservative leading up to this FEI debut in the States, but she was starting to figure out that she had a very competitive horse underneath her.

“I’ve realized that as we get into the ring he lights up more,” Kelly said. “I think he wants to do well as much as I do, which is a really nice feeling.”

Next week on EN’s Got Talent: We’ll learn about Kelly and Corazon’s experience at Rebecca Farm, where they took home the CCI* win, as well as their plans for their future together.