Touch n GO Farm

Whitesburg Georgia

Vergilius PDF Print E-mail

A magnificent stallion with poor timing.

vergilius_1.jpgThe old saying, “timing is everything” isn’t necessarily a positive cliché. After a USET sponsored clinic for long-listed riders, I took my old Grand Prix horse Monarch to be vetted. He checked out sound and the funds from the sale went in the bank while I looked for another competition horse. With additional money I had tucked away from teaching, I hoped to improve the quality of my next mount.

A dealer I respected called with a prospect at one of the auctions in Holland. The horse was Vergilius, named after the Roman poet. He was an Approved KWPN stallion with a good history as a jumper and excellent sire of performance horses. Vergil was represented to me as a capable FEI dressage horse who “could take me to the Pan Am Games in 1990.” Stresses in my personal life resulted in me ignoring every piece of sound “horse hunting” advice I’d been given. In a fine example of misplaced trust, I purchased Vergilius sight unseen.

From outward appearances things could not have looked better. Bit by Bit Farm was thriving, my show career was taking off and it looked like true success in the horse business was possible. Appearances can be deceiving. The whole world came crashing down as Vergil’s sale was going through. My marital relationship of 14 years began to crumble. Sally Grayburn and I went to pick Vergil up in Virginia following his quarantine. We stayed overnight to allow an early start towards home the next morning. At dawn a driving snowstorm moved in and I became ill. Sally drove most of the trip in the old horse van that had no working heater. All three of us froze. It wasn’t much of a “welcome to America” for Vergil. When we got home I immediately gave my new horse to the barn crew and went to the hospital. There I was admitted and diagnosed with double pneumonia. While recovering in the hospital the person I trusted most came for a visit and informed me that our marriage was over. I was discharged Christmas eve.

vergilius_2.jpgPoor Vergil didn’t receive much attention from me for several weeks. When I did find the time to ride my new FEI stallion, things went from bad to worse. It took two rides to realize just how bad it was. He was resistant and had enormous holes in his training. The first time I attempted to back a few steps, he locked his jaw and froze. I realized that I was sitting on a training level horse in a double bridle. There would be no Pan Am games or anything else with this horse for a very long time. The most expensive horse of my life became a fancy Dutch Warmblood for my working students to ride.

The stallion was drop dead gorgeous and had perfect confirmation. His natural movement was top notch. Vergil also had a wonderful disposition. No one thought he was a stallion when they first met him. His problems stemmed from his early training. I discovered scaring in his mouth and permanent nicks on his tongue. Whoever had pushed him along through the approval process and over fences hadn’t been gentle. It’s amazing he remained so affectionate towards humans. It was only under saddle that his demons seemed to return.

The next two years was a blur of depositions, courtrooms, moving a business and general turmoil. I began to work Vergil myself in 1993. We did a respectable job at Fourth level even winning Reserve Champion that the Royal Dressage Festival in Port Jervis. I accepted an invitation from George Morris to be a demonstration rider in his Instructor Development Seminar in 1994. Vergil did a fine job. We showed a few Prix St. Georges classes but his normally splendid attitude soured at competitions.

vergilius_3.jpgIn 1996 Vergil was seventeen and I sold him to Mary Thompson in Wisconsin where he continues to stand today. I bred him to a few thoroughbreds myself and he passed along his good looks and temperament to every one. With a barn full of horses, Vergil is the one I chose to give my nineteen-day-old daughter her first ride. His offspring have competed at the highest levels of jumping and FEI level dressage in Holland. The babies he sired in the states all seem to have bright futures. Vergilius clearly had the mind and body to excel at either discipline. It wasn’t his fault that a trainer with uncaring hands spoiled his trust in riders.

Under different circumstances Vergil and I might have made a good team. As it was he needed a trainer who would spend countless hours teaching him to depend on, not fear, the hands of a sensitive rider. Unfortunately, the first few months I owned Vergil I steadily lost trust in everyone and everything. At least he now enjoys his work and does American sport horse breeding a great service by passing along his tremendous genetic qualities.

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