The toughest horse I ever rode

pioneer_1.jpgAs I have said, horses can be special for many reasons. Pioneer holds two distinctions. His owner, Mary Kay Lebeau, was the best owner I ever worked with and Pioneer happens to be the toughest horse I’ve ever ridden.

While I was in Germany Mary Kay called and asked me to go look at a horse she was interested in. Pioneer had a sweet disposition and was almost ready for the FEI ring. He was the “old type” Dutch horse with a long back and lots of mass. Mary Kay purchased him and sent him straight to Touch & Go Farm in Bangor.

She tried to ride him for a few months but Mary Kay didn’t have the strength required to encourage Pioneer along. She asked me to train and show the horse in 1990. He was as kind hearted and didn’t buck or spook. Attitude wasn’t his problem, sensitivity was. It took every ounce of strength I had to get a reaction from him. I still have a pair of white show breeches with bloodstains through the leather at the knee. My blood!

pioneer_2.jpgDespite Pioneers toughness, we had top-ten and top-five placings at Devon, Gladstone, Port Jervis and others at Prix St. Georges and Intermediare I. He also won Intermediare I Reserve Champion at the BLM finals in 1992 and received a Horse of the Year award. Pioneer was retired in 1994.

Mary Kay was the quintessential “horse show mom.” She cleaned tack, groomed, brought coffee and took exceptional care of me. Pioneer would wear me out but Mary Kay was right there to make things as easy as possible. After the birth of my daughter Cassidy I wanted to see if I could still compete in the dressage ring. I decided to show Vergilius at the Georgia International Horse Park just prior to the Olympics. The day of the show Mary Kay flew down from Pennsylvania to groom for me. Who could ask for more than that?