The comeback horse
Local rider and trainer Stefanie Reinhardt and her eight year-old horse, Cadilac Jack, captured top honors in Novice Division at Colorado Horse Park’s Spring Horse Trials and CCI on June 1 in Parker, Colo. Reinhardt and Jack took first place in a challenging field of international competitors at one of Colorado’s premiere equestrian events.
A three-day event such as the Spring Horse Trials can be likened to a triathlon in which horse and rider compete in dressage, cross-country and stadium jumping over obstacles three feet high and five feet wide. A combined score in all three disciplines demonstrates a partnership between horse and rider, and all-around competence in three very different aspects of equestrian training.
The first day’s dressage test, according to Reinhardt, displays obedience and training. Reinhardt and Jack’s dressage score of 28 was one of the best scores, including Training and Preliminary Divisions, and including the international competitors. Cadilac Jack had one of the best dressage scores of the entire three day event.
“Jack was really calm and obedient,” said Reinhardt. “He was really ‘on’ that morning; he tried hard and behaved well. I felt pretty good about our test, but I didn’t expect it to be that good. With a score like that, you really can win. I about fell over when I saw our dressage score.”
Reinhardt’s and Jack’s winning streak continued into Saturday’s cross-country competition. “Cross-country tests athletic ability and bravery of the horse,” explained Reinhardt. “You gallop across the landscape over solid obstacles wide and high enough to require trust between horse and rider.”
A horse must show courage at facing an unknown course with difficult “questions,” or problems a horse must confront while maintaining a measured pace. Jumps can be intimidating because they are heavy and solid, and don’t fall apart when hit. Horses can baulk at decorations placed on and around jumps designed to show the horse’s trust in his rider. Cross-country is judged on optimum time, an average determined by the length of the course covered in Novice Division at 350 meters per minute.
“Jack is amazing at cross-country,” continued Reinhardt. “We are a team. He just eats it up and loves it out there. It’s our best phase of the three-day, so I was really confident. Decorations and shiny new jumps can scare a horse, but Jack didn’t have any problem with it.” Horse and rider covered the cross-country course “clean,” with no refusals or jumping faults, and within a minute of optimum time.
The final phase of a three-day event is stadium jumping, which tests the skill of horse and rider over jumps that fall down if hit. Horses must be highly disciplined and careful not to knock down a rail; faults are levied against a horse for every knockdown.
“Stadium jumping is not usually our best phase,” admitted Reinhardt. “We do okay, but I went into it with a little bit of trepidation. After the two previous days, I was only one point ahead of the second place rider, and if I’d knocked down a rail, I’d have been out of first place. I had to go clean. It was pretty nerve wracking, but Jack was super-careful, he wasn’t nervous at all, and the two of us came out clean. We ended up in first place and we were super excited. And that was the end of it.”
But that isn’t the end of the story. The story of Stefanie Reinhardt and Cadilac Jack is one of perseverance and resurrection. Given to Stefanie by her father, Dr. Jules Reinhardt, when the horse was four years old, in 2005 Jack ran through a fence that practically cut his leg off. He severed the extensor muscle on his left front leg; veterinarians advised Reinhardt she would probably never ride him again.
“We thought he was going to bleed to death,” remembered Reinhardt. “It took a whole year for him to walk even semi-normally. That Jack was sound enough to go to a show of this caliber is amazing.” Reinhardt credits “time, work and tons of patience,” for bringing her horse back to competitive levels. “It makes a difference with healing and training,” she said. “He came back from his injury and is doing great.”
Reinhardt advised, “If you think you can do it and people tell you that you can’t, don’t listen to them and keep on keepin’ on. You can do amazing things. Don’t ever give up. If I had given up, I would never have ridden in the Horse Trials. Winning was vindication. But most of all, I wouldn’t have such a great horse if it wasn’t for my father.”