For many riders climbing their way to the top, it’s all about finding the right partner. For Olivia Loiacono, that horse walked into her life when she was just 15 years old. Subway was pulled out of a field and put to work in the eventing world with Hawley Bennett, who at the time was working for owner Anne Glaus. Olivia purchased the chestnut Thoroughbred gelding in 2004 with the hope that he could take her through her “A” rating in Pony Club.
Subway did carry Olivia successfully through the levels Pony Club, but he wasn’t about to stop there. From the beginning of their relationship, Subway served as a constant in Olivia’s life, moving from high school into college by her side then making the move across the East Coast to further their training together with some of the best riders in the country. Subway was even there to get on a plane and cross the Atlantic to spend time learning from the famous William Fox-Pitt.
“He really is the love of my life,” Olivia said. “He’s got a ton of quirks but I love that horse.”
Quirks are definitely an integral part of life with Subway. To this day the feisty Thoroughbred insists on either bolting back to the barn from the ring or trotting back sideways. Many people, including Olivia herself, have tried to train away this particular quirk, but as of yet, no one has been successful.
“When we were training with the O’Connors, David finally told me ‘That’s it, you’ll just have to make him back up all the way back to the barn,’” Olivia remembered with a laugh. “The facility was very spread out so it was probably half a mile between the barn and the ring. I would spend more time backing back to the barn than actually riding.”
Despite his quirks, Olivia cites Subway’s stubborn mindset as the key to their success. A typical Thoroughbred, Subway absolutely loved cross-country, to the point of being considered passionate about the sport. His stubborn attitude allowed Subway to keep doing more and jumping higher, far exceeding the expectations of many.
“I wanted to go Intermediate, so we tried and we did it,” Olivia said. “So we just kept going.”
Subway took every challenge in stride, pushing his rider to work harder and go further as their success continued. All the way through the four-star level, Subway challenged Olivia to be a stronger rider. Even as a strong Thoroughbred with a big cross country gallop, Subway was never one for water jumps. Olivia always made sure to in a water schooling a few days prior to a big event to get any problems out of the way early. Heading into Rolex in 2011, Olivia went to jump into a water complex and Subway slammed on the brakes, hard. Olivia broke her knuckles as they rammed into the neck of her stubborn mount.
“You can imagine how hard I galloped into the Head of the Lake a few weeks later,” Olivia laughed. “In the pictures you can even see my wrapped hand.”
Subway sailed over every jump at Rolex that year and charged through the multiple water complexes without batting an eye. His stubborn streak kept him going through the challenging weekend as other horses tired from the exertion. In a vet examination with Olivia’s own vet following cross country, the practitioner remarked that he looked even sounder than he had when he set out that morning. Once this chestnut gelding set his mind to something, nothing was going to stop him.
After making the trek to spend a season in the United Kingdom and experiencing a whole new world of eventing, Subway was retired sound from upper level competition at 17 years old. Five years down the road, Subway is still happy and healthy teaching the next generation of riders how to ride.
Olivia has leased her heart horse to close friend Jess Hargrave — also an FEI rider and coach who bases at Sweet Oaks Equestrian Center in Temecula, California — who uses the talented gelding to teach her beginner students how to ride and to take her boyfriend out to local shows and schoolings.
“My boyfriend, Andrew, is learning the ropes on him. They will make their eventing debut together later this summer,” Jess said. “They are very cute together. Subs is very opinionated about who he ‘allows’ to ride him and he really likes Andy. He seems to really enjoy teaching Andy how to ride as well as the occasional working student as they all fight over who gets to sit on Subs. He’s a legend in the barn.”
Even at 22 years old, Subway will still slide to a halt in front of a cross rail if he is not set up properly by his green rider. Fortunately, underneath his stubborn exterior is a forgiving horse that never holds a grudge. Subway may require a rider to work for every stride, but their efforts are always rewarded with a willing horse ready for anything and teaching his riders to always keep going and keep kicking.
Olivia continues to provide training for both horse and rider out of a beautiful facility in Southern California. For more information on OKL Eventing, visit her website.