Kate Ruppel tells Houdini’s Story

Kimberly Clark gave us permission to share Kate Ruppel’s story about her Advanced horse and OTTB Houdini.    She got him through the TPR (Thoroughbred Placement Resources).   Houdini had his start at Leighton Farm, like many of the TPR horses.  As with most horses that retire off of Maryland tracks, he was not a rescue, he was a prospect.



Kate Ruppel and Houdini, photo by Leah Anderson



Houdini’s story, by Kate Ruppel

I found him on the Leighton Farm website as a 3yo and bought him as a gift for my boyfriend at the time who was generous enough to let me ride his Intermediate horse for a summer and go to NAYRC on it. Hewie was to be his thank you present. I bought him in the fall and for three nights straight he wiggled out of his blanket without undoing any of the straps. That is how he got his name Houdini and we called him Hewie for short.

Hewie has always been a shy horse. He is a very nervous and spooky type. I took him to a few starter horse trials and he won them all. My boyfriend then took over the ride and he went to his frist recognized horse trial. It was all a bit too much for Hewie and he literally ran away from the first jump on cross country, through the ropes and back to the trailer.

The relationship didn’t last much longer and I took a job in Maryland riding and training. My boyfriend said there was no way he was keeping the Hewie and to get rid of him. I took him with me to Maryland and kept working on him. I didn’t necessarily believe in him then but the horse needed a job. I figured I could sell him on down the line. I had 2 prospective purchasers vet him and twice he did something minor right before, such as pull a shoe off and step on a clip. I felt like I couldn’t give this horse away.

I wasn’t sure what to do so with him so I took him up to Buck’s with my other horses for a second opinion. Buck was the first one to tell me to keep working on this horse and to give him a shot. Buck really put me on the right path for training this horse when he was younger and I credit him for helping me turn him around.


katie ruppel

Photo by Samantha Clark


The years go by and I kept a keen eye out for the horse that could win it all for me, little did I know he was in my barn already. I would not consider Hewie the most talented jumper or the most brave horse, but he is incredibly obediant and like most Thoroughbreds he tries very hard to please me. He has an amazing work ethic and that is what has gotten him this far. Hewie is now on a little fall vacation after winning the Advanced at Poplar. He is still young at 8 years old and I will just keep letting him tell me what he wants to do. I will aim him at Jersey CCI3* in the spring and we have a great start to our qualifications after this year so I am in a position to pick and choose where to run him in the spring.

Hewie is not only my best Advanced horse, he is my partner and my pet.

We have literally grown up together and he has been with me through all the many changes in my young adult life.

I laugh now, I think losing my boyfriend and getting stuck with Hewie was the best thing that has ever happened to me!



At Galway Downs, photo by Samantha Clark

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