We’ve paid homage before to Buck Davidson’s prowess at piloting so many horses around at big events, and with 10 horses entered at Plantation Field Horse Trials this weekend, he had a very busy final day. A dusty Buck gave us a behind-the-scenes look at just another day in his life after the event concluded.
“It started off great in the morning,” Buck said. “Tiger Lion jumped great in the Intermediate cross country. Then in the two-star, I was going fantastic on the little 6-year-old mare Riviera. She’s a little green, and when she came up to the last combination, I thought she was right there for the corner, but she ducked out and then she ducked out again. Then I had a runout on No Remorse coming out of the foundation.”
Then it was back up the hill to the main arena for Advanced show jumping, where Buck pulled three rails with Wiley Post and hit the dirt when Mar de Amor slammed on the brakes at fence five. “He throws me on the floor at home all the time,” Buck said.
“When I rode him at Kentucky (in 2013), that’s about the most nervous I’ve ever been. I thought, ‘I’m going into show jumping in the top 10, there’s 30,000 people here, and I’m going to fall off.’ Thank goodness I didn’t. With all of the horses, you try to do the best you can, and you want them to look good and succeed, and I’m not sure I can replicate what I did in Kentucky that year,” when the horse finished 9th.
Buck had to quickly shake off the disappointment of the fall from Mar de Amor to go back down the hill to ride his third horse in CIC2* cross country, as he sat tied for the overnight lead aboard Be Mine, an 8-year-old Rheinlander gelding often referred to as “Little Reggie” since he’s like an overgrown pony.
Owned by Lisa Darden, she purchased Be Mine as a 3-year-old dressage prospect, who quickly showed he had no interest in being a dressage horse. “He’s basically quiet until he’s not, and then hang on, because he’s going to buck, and he’s going to spin, and he’s going to have a good time,” Buck said.
Lisa sent the horse to Buck to evaluate, and after they unsuccessfully tried to sell him, Be Mine did his first Novice in January. He’s flown through the levels since, winning the Bromont CCI* in June and now winning the Plantation Field CIC2* — definitely a quick progression through the levels, and Buck said he’s well aware of that fact.
“This whole weekend has been about trying to do the right thing,” Buck said. “I think mentally the reason he’s here is because he’s a bit of a bastard. He needs to be challenged, and he’s good enough.” Be Mine’s owner, Lisa Darden, fully supported the decision to move him up to the two-star level at Plantation Field.
Buck said he couldn’t think of another horse he’s ever had that moved up the levels so quickly and with such a high success rate. “I will pull the reins back eventually and not keep pushing; we’ll leave him at Intermediate for a bit,” Buck said.
“He’ll probably go to the Fair Hill CCI2* or Galway Downs. He did the one-star at Bromont, and he did that easily, and he did this very easily, but he doesn’t have a base of fitness from the years of doing it. Galway is probably a little easier on them. I talked to Lisa, and we’ve got good hills here (in Pennsylvania), so we’ll try to pick the right place for him.”
As Buck said, “trying to do the right thing” has been an overarching theme of the weekend after comments began to surface online criticizing his decision to compete Ballynoe Castle RM in the CIC3* at Plantation Field, just three weeks after the horse retired on course at the World Equestrian Games.
“I talked to (Ballynoe Castle RM’s owners) Carl and Cassie Segal at length about it,” Buck said. “I didn’t even know people were all upset. All I can say is I felt like the horse wanted to do it. If I have a bad day or things don’t go the way I want, I’m not going to go on vacation. I want to get back to work and do what I do, and then I’ll take a break.”
Buck said his father, Bruce, also asked him why he had decided to run “Reggie” at Plantation Field. “I said, ‘Dad, I think he just wants to do it, and he came up to me after and said, ‘I’m glad you did that; it was the right thing to do.’”
As for WEG, Buck said the decision to retire was simple: The horse was just winded and out of gas. “It’s a judgment call, every single time I have a horse is a judgment call. I’ve been wrong plenty of times, but I know Reggie better than I know every other horse,” Buck said.
His longtime groom Kathleen Blauth-Murray flew up from Florida to personally make sure Reggie was ready to go this weekend. “Kathleen would literally pull his shoes off if it wasn’t right,” Buck said. “Even when I got on in the afternoon, I asked her if he’s good, and she said, ‘He’s ready.’”
Buck, who led the CIC3* overnight with Reggie, cantered around to pick up 7.6 time penalties to ultimately finish in third place. “I didn’t kick him. If he had made the time, it wouldn’t have mattered. All that matters is when we came to the last fence and he had his ears up. He had his ears up the whole way. He’s a competitor, and he loved being out there.”
Indeed, Team Davidson was all smiles at the awards ceremony at the end of the day, with Carl especially beaming with pride. After completing cross country, Reggie officially became the highest point-scoring horse in the history of the United States Eventing Association.
“We’re in it together, and we love the horse more than anybody who’s talking about it, and we think this is what he wanted to do,” Buck said. As for Reggie, Buck said he was bouncing around and happy after coming off cross country. The horse had his shoes pulled off last night and will now officially begin his vacation.
So what’s next for Buck? He’ll bring his usual menagerie to the American Eventing Championships, Morven Park and the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International before heading to Pau CCI4* in France with The Apprentice and Galway Downs in California to officially wrap up his season.
And he’ll also be squeezing in a wedding to Andrea Leatherman on Nov. 8 — “If I don’t fall off before then,” Buck said. Congrats to Buck, Carl, Cassie, Lisa, Kathleen and the whole BDJ team on a great weekend at Plantation Field, where Buck practically grew up, no less.
Plantation Field Links: [Website] [Final Scores] [EN’s Coverage] [PRO TV]