I was on my way from the advanced water jump back to the artisan fair at The Fork after all the CIC*** horses and riders had gone. I made it just around the bend and ran into Buck headed back the other way. I stopped to say a quick hello and a congrats on all his great rides. And he did something I’ve come to expect, and appreciate, in Buck. After navigating three top rides, one of which would win him the CIC*** for the second year in a row, he said, “They were great. I’m lucky”. Whether you consider him lucky, gifted, or both, all eyes are on him for Rolex and the World Equestrian Games.
above: Buck and Titanium at the Fork
Q. If I remember correctly Titanium was going Preliminary a year ago. Now he’s going to Rolex. Can you tell me more about him?
A. He did his first advanced last year and did the Jersey Fresh 3 star and then he went to the Fair Hill 3 star but we didn’t take him cross-country since we had so much rain. He’s only done one three star and being totally honest he is for sure not a lock to Kentucky. Whether he goes or not I don’t know. It doesn’t matter to me he’s only eight. We’ll see who goes where.
Q. You spend your summer and Fall in Pennsylvania. What’s the farm like there?
A. The farm is in Riegelsville, Pennsylvania and it’s owned by Randy and Sherry Martin. It’s fantastic. There’s a beautiful indoor and outdoor ring, a whole cross-country course, and a bunch of paddocks and stalls. It’s a beautiful place; I’m really lucky.
Q. Do you have a preference of Florida versus Pennsylvania?
A. I really like being in both places if simpy for the weather. Florida is obviously great for winter and Pennsylvania is great for the summer. When I’m up in Pennsylvania it’s great location right near I-95; eveyrthing is right close. It’s an hour from New York City and 45 minutes from Philly. It’s right in the middle of everything so it’s easy to get to for lessons or whatever. Down here in Ocala we have 600 acres and sixty stalls. It’s a great place to train and the weather’s good so I’m pretty lucky at both places.
Q. Any update on the relationship front?
A. I have a girlfriend and she’s okay. [Ha! Note to reader that she's sitting next to him at this point!]. I’m very lucky. I have a great girlfriend and she rides and teaches lessons and that kind of stuff. She won her first event at Red Hills so that was very exciting. She’s a big help when I’m on the road teaching clinics and doing whatever, she can ride the horses at home so it works out really well.
photo by Leslie Mintz
Q. In my interviews people have described eventers as things like down-to-earth, adventurous, and type A. Are there things about you that you think are like other eventers?
A. I don’t know. I’ve prided myself on being different. I [comes across as] a go with the flow person, which I am to a certain extent. But to a certain extent I’m a lot more calculated than people know. I have a plan. I don’t always let everybody know. I let the owners know and the students to the best of what I think they need. I try to have a plan with each horse and a reason why each horse does what it does. With the students, they are all individuals themselves and some need something where another one doesn’t. Every horse and rider gets treated as an individual. The idea that eventers just wing it –maybe that’s how I come across, but I’m not sure that’s right. I don’t think you can be successful without having a plan and a program. I just think that mine is, like I said, so individualized that each horse and rider get a little different program. They still need to be fit and ready for what they’re doing but each horse and rider will get there in a different way. My horses gallop every 5th day, essentially, but some horses might gallop not quite as often, or do more flatwork, or more trotting. There is aplan and it’s in my head but I don’t just write down a fitness program. It doesn’t just involve Monday trot, Tuesday jump, Wednesday [etc]. That’s not training that’s having them fall into a program. You need to have each program detailed to each horse and get what it needs.
Q. What’s the safest way to get a horse fit without putting too much stress on their legs?
A. I do a lot of trotting. A lot. My dad always says you’ll never break a horse trotting. The biggest compliment that ever came to me was from Brendan Furlong who’s been my vet and dad’s vet. He said, “Buck, of all the horses I look at, you’ve got the soundest barn and you do the least to them.” I’m a little old school from dad; I don’t do a lot of injecting and that stuff. I don’t think I’ll ever have a Horse of the Year because I don’t think I’m going to run them that many times. Trotting is such an important part of their routine. For instance, Reggie [Ballynoe Castle RM] has done advanced at the Red Hills 3 star and then he didn’t go again till The Fork. I think you won’t have the horses too long, as Brendan says, if you’re always going for two points. If you don’t have your horse fit enough it won’t matter anyway. The horse have to be fit. They’re not racehorses, it’s not just lean muscle. It’s power too and you get that power from the trotting. I like to think of my horses as big, strong horses and hopefully we’ll be around for a while. The short answer is that trotting is long, tedious, and boring but it’s what keeps the horses sound.
My preliminary horses don’t gallop. People come to me and ask what gallop sets you’re doing to go prelim. Getting ready for a one star and galloping? You don’t need to do that! There are exceptions, obviously. Your gallops are your events. Then my prelim horses do more jumping and stuff than the adnvanced horses so they get fit that way. I think that sometimes people do the easy thing which is to go out and gallop. It doesn’t take very long. But in my opinion it’s better to spend the time trotting them and get the hard fit that way.
Q. When do you know about whether or not you’ll make the World Equestrian Games Team?
A. When they tell me. You find out for sure when you trot off. The Fork is a big competition for us and Kentucky too. At this level I’m lucky enough to have Reggie and Bobby, two of the best horses we have in the country. So the deal here is Bobby is a little older and a little harder on himself. The powers that be understand that so [since] he went well at The Fork, hopefully he can rest. Reggie is only ten-years-old and he, I don’t know, maybe he won’t have to go to Kentucky. Riders are kicking around that we want the top riders to be on the top horses but let not break our top horses. Because there’s a point when one more thing is too much. Certainly Reggie is amazing but it’s a definite concern doing 4 four-stars in a year. But, knock on wood, the horse is very sound and going well right now. Obviously it’s something I want to do. Maybe Ty will step up, who knows. When it comes down to it, it’s who’s sound. So my job is to do well at competitions but have them sound and peaking for September.