Saturday, January 19, 2008

A big round of applause for Mr. Big!

When I went to Rolex last year, I studied the Chronicle of the Horse Rolex issue as if I was going to be tested on it. If you haven't seen the issue, Jimmy Wofford writes a short bio on each horse/rider combination and predicts where they'll finish. Every bio had something memorable. But when I read Wofford's writeup of Mr. Big, I knew that here was a horse I wanted to watch. Wofford wrote that "Mr. Big has a brain like Einstein and a heart as big as all outdoors." He predicted that Mr. Big and owner/rider Julia Steinberg would finish in the top 20.

Mr. Big could easily have ended up a rescue case. John Buswell, a friend of Julia's with a keen eye for horses, urged her to see a horse he'd found near a West Virginia racetrack. He'd liked his look and bloodlines. Julia Steinberg went to see the 15 hand hand plain bay in "less than favorable circumstances" -- behind a barn, knee deep in mud. He looked too small, and was "wild," Julia recalled. At Buswell's urging, she borrowed money from her sister and bought him for $2500. Mr. Big turned out to be a brave amd scopey jumper, and under the care of Julia and her trainer Phillip Dutton he rose in the ranks of eventing. In 2005, Julia was the USEA Adult Amateur of the Year. And in 2007, Julia took Mr. Big to Rolex.

A Rolex volunteer told me that when Julia presented Mr. Big at the vet inspection, her love for him was apparent. She wore a big smile and said proudly, "This is Mr. Big!" As if I needed more reasons to like this pair, they are from West Grove PA and therefore are the home team. On Thursday, I dragged Bob to the stadium in the rain to watch Mr. Big's dressage test. Dressage was not his strength. His gaits did not compare with the larger horses and warmbloods. His extensions were modest. But he was lovely in his own way. Agile and obedient, he performed the required movements handily. His scores were respectable.

On Saturday, the cross country day, Mr. Big was among five horses I'd circled as must-sees. To watch his round, we sat near Fence 18, the Footbridge, and we waited. As he came galloping into view, he really looked no bigger than Teddy, the much ballyhooed pony competitor ridden by Karen O'Connor. Still, he looked confident and bright-eyed as he sailed over the obstacle. You can watch his jump on my cell phone video below. Bob photographed him coming toward him over the jump, and the photo is pictured left.

Of course I wanted Mr. Big to win. As it turns out, he was retired somewhere around the Head of the Lake, presumably sometime after the top right picture was taken. I wonder if he will have another chance to go to Rolex. He will be 17 this year, and Julia has other young horses she is bringing along. Regardless what his future holds, he has won many hearts along the journey -- including mine. In an article in the Chronicle, Julia's own words convey what her partnership with Mr. Big has meant to her. "Mr. Big has brought my life to a whole other level. It's almost a spiritual level. He's a pretty phenomenal horse."

Note: I've never had the good fortune to meet Julia Steinberg or Mr. Big. All quotes and information were gleaned from articles in the bibliography below.

Netzler, Kat. Julia Steinberg Accomplishes "Big" Goals. Chronicle of the Horse, March 02, 2007.

Steinberg, Julia. Little horse, Big partnership. Practical Horseman. West April, 2003. Vol. 31, Iss. 4; p. 144.

Wofford, Jimmy. Clayton Fredericks Will Be The One To Beat This Year. Chronicle of the Horse, April 20, 2007. Rolex Event Issue.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.