Buck Davidson Takes 3rd at Rolex and: The Horse that Broke His Heart, That "It" Thing, and Fierce Friendships.
Q. When did you start riding?
A. When I was four.
Q. What was your first horse or pony’s name?
A. Bucket. He was a furry, bay pony with a white face about size of a dog. The first time I rode mom and dad put Nancy and me on Bucket and held us there. Then they simulataneously let go and Nancy fell off on way and I fell off the other way. It was day one: learning how to fall off.
photo by Stu Forster/ Getty Images
Q. How old are you now?
A. Obviously my Dad has done everything in the sport: won two world championships, Olympic gold, silver, bronze, Pan Am gold, Badminton, Kentucky, Burghley. He’s won everything there is to win. Mom has done Burghley, Badminton, and she was the leading rider in the country one year. My sister rode up to 2-star level and then went on to other things. I grew up with it.
Q. What did your path to eventing look like?
A. Because it was so easy and so right there–you always want what you can’t have. A million horses around and the only thing I wanted to do was anything without horses. I did what I call “guy sports” like football, basketball, ice hockey. I had to work at the farm and pay rent so-to-speak. But then I tore up my knee and had to get knee surgery so missed a soccer season. I played hockey and had another surgery and missed another soccer season. So then I rode and as I got better I thought maybe I could make living at it. And after high school I jumped into the family business and here we are today. It’s not the easiest way to make a living but there may not be a better way. I work for myself. I couldn’t sit behind a desk.
Q. What are your colors?
Q. Are you in a relationship?
A. I am not for the first time. I’ve been single for 6 or 7 months and it’s good.
Q. Do you have any kids or hope to?
A. I don’t have any kids that’s for sure. I definitely want to get married and have kids and a family and live a life that’s not just for me. It’s definitely something I want to do. The right thing will come around I’m sure about it.
photo by Emily Daily
Q. Who’s your favorite horse of all time?
A. There’s been a bunch. Diffferent horses for different times. Pajama Game was a half-Morgan, half-Thoroughbred that got me the jacket so to speak. We didn’t know anything but we believed in each other and got the stuff done.
Trans Am A flirt took me to my first 4-star. Not the world’s best mover but an unbelievable jumper. He got me my first top 5 in a 3-star and 4-star. Mystic Mike got me the National Championship at Kentucky. The best horse I’ve ever ridden is Reggie. But there’s been so many.
Glad Touch…all he ever seemed to do was break me: my back, my leg. But he was probably most talented horse I’ve ever ridden. He died of some weird liver disease. It was a train wreck from day one. We thought I needed “real” horse so we got a syndicate together. He came lame off the plane from Ireland. But he looked like the real thing. So a week after one of my horses went lame in Australia I came home and rode him at Menfelt. He turned over and broke my leg. We got things righted and got on the list for World Games. Then we went to Burghley and fell on steeplechase and he broke my back and neck. For all the horses that aren’t good enough the worst things that happened were on the best horse.
One day he laid down in the field and that was weird for him. He had a temperature of 105 so we took him to the vet. When we got him home I walked past his stall and he was laying down. He stood up when I walked past. I walked away and he laid back down. I walked back to his stall again and he stood up. I couldn’t take it anymore. It still makes me sad to think about it now. He made my dad so angry because he cribbed so bad and tore up the place! It was the first horse that was for me and didn’t have some problem. He was a special horse. Thinking back he’d be older now but would still be going. He was as talented or more talented than Reggie. He jumped around Kentucky like it was a joke. But sometimes it doesn’t work out. I wish things could have been different–that was a good horse. I wish we could do it over.
Q. Who are your current Advanced Horses?
A. I’m lucky right now have six of them. Ballynoecastle (Reggie), might be the most famous of them all; My Boy Bobby (we call Bobby)–those go to [Rolex] Kentucky. May I Tell Ya (Ben) goes to Jersey Fresh 3-star; Titanium (Ty)also goes to Jersey Fresh 3-star; LA Albert (Albert) goes to Bromont; Donald also goes to Bromont.
Q. How do you decide which competitions to take them to?
A. Reggie and Bobby are both at the 3-star level and ready to go to a 4-star. Ben and Ty go to the Jersey Fresh 3-star because it’s maybe a little easier and the emphasis is more on dressage and show jumping. Donald will go to Bromont since he’s still a bit weak on dressage and the show jumping is not as technical as Jersey Fresh. The best cross country horses go to Bromont. And then you pick which one could be most competitive: at that level you go to win. I’m lucky for the first time to have the number of horses at this level. At the end of the day on their day they could all be really competitive.
photo by Emily Daily
Q. Who’s your best/ favorite right now?
A. They’re all good unique in their own way. Reggie is so talented and so young and we trust each other. Albert is the greenest one and the most unreliable but I love him. He’s beautiful and sweet. Ty is a beautiful grey horse with a beautiful eye. He’s just a baby and actually and I own him. That’s fun since I can do exactly what I want, when I want, and if do something wrong no one can get mad at me. I paid nothing for him and think he will be very very good. He gives you everything. Bobby I don’t know very well. I just started riding him last year so this winter he’s staying with me and I ride him every day. He has won every Advanced he’s gone in [three so far] and won the CIC*** [at The Fork]. He’s a sweet horse though he doesn’t have tons of personality and character. May I Tell Ya (Ben) looks like a pony. He’s so cute and it’s exciting to have him back after two years off. He’s dead, dead quiet and then out of no where he bucks you off –and he’ll buck you off right proper. Then he’ll look at you on the ground and think “I got ya”. He’s the sweetest in stall. He’ll pick up all the halters and throw them around aisle. He has a mini pony that lives with him to try and keep him under wraps. He’s been hurt a couple times in field. I’m happy to have him back.
Q. Do you have any superstitions?
A. A lot. Like unbelievably a lot. Everything starts with left. Left sock first, left pant leg first, left shoe first. Also, at every event I would know exactly what I did the first three times in warm up. If I jumped the x three times in a row and it goes well then I jump the next horse over the x three times in a row. If it goes badly then I definitely don’t jump the x three times in a row the next time. Once I had a run out at a competition and I changed everything: boots, britches, underwear, socks–everything. The next one had a run out and I changed everything again: socks, boots, britches, underwear. Then the third one went well. I’m a bit crazy like that. I once marked pair of britches that went really well. I wore them the next week and that didn’t work out so I don’t do that anymore! Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. You put in the work and you should be good but then it doesn’t hurt to have a little luck.
Q. What are you known for or proud of in your riding style?
A. I’m proud of the work I put in and my development and improvement from the beginning to now. Everyone thought I was the person that could ride any horse and since I can ride bad horses people send bad horses. I earned my stripes riding horses no one else could ride. As they say: good horses allow you to ride well, bad horses make you ride bad. As I’ve gotten older and hopefully smarter (hence, broken) I don’t ride just anything anymore. If it’s not good enough it’s not good enough.
Q. How would your friends describe you?
A. I hope they would say first and foremost that I’m a good friend. My friends have been my friends for a long time. I don’t have a lot of friends but the friends I have would do anything for me and I would do anything for them. Wendy and Rob [Lewis] are friends like that.
I would do anything for them. If I was in real trouble I could call them up and they would drop everything and I would do the same for them. Wins and losses don’t mean anything without that. My friends would tell you I’m nothing like what everyone thinks I am. The public side of me is not at all me. I’m basically a boring person. I don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t go out. I go home, watch tv, and go to bed. I’m not that exciting. I’m shy, then maybe once you know me you can’t get me to shut up.
Q. What do you look for in a successful four-star horse?
A. It’s doing it. You don’t know until you do it. I’m not sure that Bobby is 4-star horse. He’s a 3-star winner. Not to say that he’s not a 4-star horse. He was having trouble going prelim last year and with a change of pilot in a year he’s going to a 4-star. That’s a big step. He’s done everything I’ve ever asked him to do. He’s a fantastic jumper, the best. The same with Reggie. Neither are throughbred horses. They’re Irish and not clean bred for sure. I try to give them a nice time. I look for minds. You can’t train horse that doesn’t have good mind. You watch American Idol and think that guy has it or he doesn’t. You’ll turn and look at a 4-star horse a second time. Even if you don’t’ know it’s a 4-star horse. It has that “it” thing. It takes a special horse.
Q. What is the highlight of your career so far?
A. It’s still gonna happen. I don’t look back on anything I’ve done. It doesn’t really matter. It’s: Where are you gonna go? We live in sally-come-lately-society. Last weekend I won the 3-star with Bobby and then had to go back and ride Reggie Advanced and people said “smile!”. Maybe I need to take a step back. I’m more proud of the person that I am and the friends that I have. At the end of day it’s all about the people in your life. Nobody in 30 years is gonna remember what Buck Davidson did as a rider. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that we’re important. And it is important to me. But it’s not the only thing.
Q. What are your ultimate goals and hopes?
A. Short term I would really love to win the World Championships next year.
Q. Who’s been most influential in your riding career?
A. My mom and my Dad. Taught me everything I know, basically. It would have to be them. No question.