Angela Grzywinski is a member of an incredibly exclusive club, as she not only has a wonderful $1 horse, but she took that horse to Rolex this year and completed their first CCI4* together. In addition, she and her feisty mare have taken the show jumping world by storm, successfully competing at Grand Prix level. It’s not every day somebody gets the opportunity to partner with a horse of such quality, and much less often that this horse comes from such humble a background.
Novelle started life in the center of horse country in Lexington, Kentucky. Bred for the life of a racehorse with a Jockey Club name of Cupid’s Tart, by Frisk Me Now out of Teetawak, she never made it to the track due to her diminutive stature and lack of spectacular bloodlines. Left forgotten in a field with a donkey and a Shetland pony, she was eventually given to Alec Kennedy as a gift. Alec, who was friends with Angela, asked her to come ride the 3-year-old mare on a whim.
“From the moment I sat on her, I knew she had fire and scope,” Angela said, “mostly because she tried to buck me off!” Novelle showed instantaneous talent over fences, and that winter competed in 2’6″ jumper classes after only a few months under saddle.
In 2006, Angela moved back home to Texas, and as she was unable to purchase this special mare, was saddened to leave her behind in Kentucky. One day, out of the blue, she received a call from Alec informing her that he was moving back to Ireland and that Novelle was up for grabs, if she wanted her. The decision was a no brainer, and Novelle and Angela were reunited.
While Novelle was always clever and careful over fences, the dressage portion of eventing was (and is) distinctly her least favorite aspect. “She is the kindest and most genuine horse I’ve ever met, but her conformation makes the uphill and collected movements very difficult,” Angela said. “Couple that with the fact that she is fairly intense, so there’s usually some tension. Sometimes we just canter down the centerline a little faster than the judges, and they don’t seem to share my sense of humor about it!”
The pair moved through the levels fairly quickly, beginning their career together at Novice in the spring of 2007, and ending the same year at Preliminary. They spent an entire year at that level before taking the leap to Intermediate in 2009, which is where Novelle encountered her first challenge in the jumping department.
“She has always been a very careful horse, which has worked out well for us in the show jumping. However, once we got to the Intermediate and Advanced levels, she started to have runouts on cross country. She never stopped at a fence or ran out to be naughty, but sometimes she was just a little too careful and needed a second look to understand the question.”
Angela spent a long time working on her cross country skills, honing her ability to be aggressive and accurate to every fence. Their record began smoothing out, and while Novelle has blossomed into a “cross country dragon,” there are still moments when she politely asks for another try. However, Angela says that she doesn’t mind this quirk, because she knows that Novelle will never put her in a dangerous position or make a mistake.
In 2013, after spending a few years at the Preliminary and Intermediate levels, the pair successfully moved up to Advanced, and in 2014 they completed the Rebecca Farm CIC3*, a moment that Angela remembers as the first step towards the ultimate dream: Rolex.
This past spring, that dream became a reality. Angela and her little Thoroughbred mare completed Rolex Kentucky CCI4* in 38th place, through grueling conditions on the cross country course that took out many competitors.
“Rolex was a fairytale for me. The best part was sharing the experience with the people I love, my friends and clients, my coach of 22 years Mike Huber, and my boyfriend Andy. Novelle gave me everything she had in all three phases. Trotting down the ramp into the Rolex arena for the first time was like nothing I’ll ever experience again,” Angela said.
“Galloping across the finish line and sobbing hysterically because I beat the odds, and crossing the finish flags in show jumping with a sound and happy horse were all things I can’t put into words. It really was a miracle.”
Novelle enjoyed a nice break after Rolex and then competed in her second Grand Prix show jumping class as a warmup for Rebecca Farms CIC3*, finishing sixth there. Angela plans to compete in the American Eventing Championships at the Advanced level, as it’s in her backyard this year in Texas, and after that knuckle down for some dressage boot camp in the fall and the winter.
She’s planning on a return to the bluegrass state for another crack at the four-star level at Rolex next year, and beyond that, she hopes to enjoy competing this special mare as long as she can at the top levels. “At Rolex, I felt like the little girl in the movie ‘Sylvester’ who loaded up my cow pony in Texas and held my own against the very best,” Angela said.
“So many people, including myself, doubted that Novelle wanted to compete at that level, and after Rolex, I truly believe that she did that cross country course for me. We have a bond I know I’ll never have with another horse. When the chips were down and I was terrified in the start box at Rolex, she took care of me, and that is the absolute best part about my free horse. We climbed the ladder together, and she truly is my partner.”