Living the Amateur’s Dream with Bruce Davidson

Laura and Bunny going Prelim. Photo by Palmer Photo. Laura and Bunny going Prelim. Photo by Palmer Photo.

It should be incredibly intimidating to ride with the legendary Bruce Davidson Sr. The Olympic medals, unparalleled wins at Rolex and the other global four-star events are truly remarkable, but the experience of training with Bruce is just the opposite. This is my story:

Bruce is relaxed and chatty, sitting on one of his absolutely perfectly mannered Charlie babies, recounting names and tales from past Badminton or Burghley events. He always has a story or quip from other legends one only reads about, but he is always getting to the heart of understanding dressage, jumping or the general horsemanship question at hand. If you have the heart for it, you will achieve more in your riding than you ever dreamed.

Training with Bruce is about filling in the gaps of your equestrian education, and for me, it’s about living out a dream that started many years ago as a child. Watching the equestrian segment of the Olympics, I marveled at the abilities of these athletes (both horse and rider) and their ability to jump unprecedented heights in perfect form.

It’s been a long time coming, with the usual travails of work and family superseding my equestrian passion. I spent a few years as a weekend foxhunter and then began eventing at the lower levels 10 years ago. It’s hard to make too much progress riding just weekends, but I managed to get the basics down with a local trainer.

Bruce and Howie. Photo by Palmer Photo.

Bruce and Howie. Photo by Palmer Photo.

Last year, the stars aligned, and I came to Chesterland South with two of my horses, Bunny, a well bred Irish Sport Horse, and Howie, my newly purchased American Warmblood.

My checklist of things to improve and concerns about my riding technique was endless, and Bruce listened patiently. Day by day, my riding and confidence have changed as I began to truly understand how to get the best out of myself and my horses.

I had desperately wanted a formula for success, which I could quickly memorize and execute, but Bruce showed me that each ride needed to be custom tailored. He taught me how to listen to my horse and ride each one to the best of their individual capabilities. How many people also get to have Bruce Davidson “tune up” their horses?

Moving up to Preliminary had always been my dream, as to me it signified a higher level of competition where one could became a rider with a capital “R”! I moved up to prelim late last season in Area II and managed to complete two events. For the 2015 season, I’m focused on going clear in Prelim here in Florida, shooting for the Ocala H.T. CCI* in April with my mare Bunny. Competing in a one-star is a dream I thought unattainable until now.

Charlie babies! Photo by Lisa Thomas.

Charlie babies! Photo by Lisa Thomas.

I’ve also checked off another bucket list item by breeding my kind, forgiving and super talented mare, Bunny, to Bruce’s perfect stallion Keltic Lion (AKA Charlie). If you ever have the opportunity to come visit at Chesterland to see Charlie’s amazing crop of foals, you will be impressed. All of his offspring throw Charlie’s lovely temperament, bone size and athletic ability. The babies are very engaging and love to entertain visitors who take the tour of the farm.

Bunny managed to take on the first try when we bred her in May (which I’m told is quite amazing!), and we are now awaiting the birth of the foal out of a surrogate mare, Princess Julia. Jan Smith, who oversees Chesterland’s breeding activities, is closely watching Princess Julia up north.

The colt will be born around Easter, and I can’t wait for “Keltic Pride” to come into the world. I know he is going to be special — perhaps a Rolex horse for me? I know this sounds improbable, but since Bruce has helped me realize all my other dreams in 2014, my future goals do not seem out of the question!

I’m confident that with Bruce bringing along my colt, he will be as mannerly and talented as all the Charlie babies he’s produced to date.