Rolex Rookies: Lillian Heard and Share Option

Lillian Heard and Share Option. Photo by Jenni Autry. Lillian Heard and Share Option. Photo by Jenni Autry.

With as much time as Lillian Heard has spent grooming for some of the country’s top riders, it comes as a surprise that this week will be just the second time she has actually set foot in the Kentucky Horse Park. “I’ve worked for pros since I was young, and I was always the one entrusted to stay home and care for the horses when the riders would head off to Rolex,” Lillian said. “When Boyd competed at WEG, Caitlin (Silliman) and I were able to drive down for cross-country day, but that’s the only time I’ve ever been to the horse park. It’s crazy because all of my lesson kids and clients have been there at some point, and I’ve never really been.”

Preparing top notch horses, however, is not foreign to Lillian. After losing her horse, Ariel, in the tragic fire at True Prospect Farm in 2011, Lillian decided to redirect her focus for awhile. “After the fire, I kind of realized that I had an opportunity, if you want to call it that,” Lillian said. “I had met Carol Gee when I was in Europe, and she had offered me a job. At first I thought it was a crazy idea and that there was no way I could move to Ireland, but I decided to take the risk and go for it.” Lillian spent time working in both Ireland and England and got a lot out of her experiences. “I really got to see what it was like to be a professional rider. I was able to tell what unproven horses would likely turn into something great and which ones wouldn’t. I really think it was beneficial to make me into the rider I am today.”

Lillian Heard and Share Option. Photo by Mike McNally.

Lillian Heard and Share Option. Photo by Mike McNally.

Share Option was waiting for Lillian when she returned home, and she set right to work preparing the 2003 Irish Sport Horse gelding, which she had purchased in 2008 after Ann Taylor showed her the horse, with Rolex in mind. She had actually hoped to get to Kentucky in 2011, but “Whitey” suffered an injury that kept him out of contention. At the time of Whitey’s injury, Lillian was working with Jan Byyny, who told her that, while the injury was heartbreaking, it could be a blessing in disguise. “She told me that it might take some time for him to come back, but that I’ll look back and think about how it was a good thing because it gave us more time to prepare and be the best we could be. I am a much better rider now than I was then, and I think it would have been much harder for him to take care of me then versus now. It really makes me appreciate it that much more; I’m just thankful to have another chance on him.”

Lillian is excited to be testing the waters at the four-star level. “I’m nervous, there’s no question about it, because it’s been so long since I’ve done something new with eventing. It’s an experience I’ve never had before, so that’s exciting.” Lillian also expressed sincere gratitude for all of the support she has had. “Boyd definitely gets Coach of the Year from me; he’s done so much for me and has really put in the time making sure I know everything I need to know.” She trains out of Bascule Farm in Maryland, and the support network she has there is something she is very grateful for. “I would never have made it this far without their support.”

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