When first-time horse buyer Claudia Channing purchased Chestnut Oak’s Drummer Boy (Clononeer Romantic Traveler x Steege’s Beth) as an unbroken 3-year-old American-bred Gypsy Vanner/Shire cross gelding, it might have seemed like an unorthodox choice for a new rider. Affectionately knowns as “Romeo” around the barn, he has proven that he can be competitive at the lower levels of eventing. “[It was] quite the leap into horse ownership, but his quiet nature and willing attitude made for the perfect match,” reflected Taylor Lindsten, Romeo and Channing’s current trainer.
Channing had never even ridden a horse before going with her friend, Dolly, to look at Romeo. "Dolly agreed that Romeo was a very good-natured horse, but she made me promise that I would put him in training and take riding lessons on other horses for a year before I would ride him," Channing shared. Romeo went in to dressage training with Juan Lopes Torres and began competing right away to help get him accustomed to a show atmosphere. "Romeo absolutely LOVED all of the attention that he got and enjoyed walking the show grounds and socializing with humans."
Together, Channing and Romeo did all sorts of activities, from bareback riding, swimming, and horse camping, to games, police horse clinics, and polo. "Romeo has always been very curious and brave, and he enjoyed the variety of work," Channing observed. With dressage trainer Kailee Surplus, Romeo was the Training Level Reserve Champion at the Arizona State Dressage Championships in 2014. In 2017, Channing and Romeo were Champions at the Arizona Draft Horse and Mule Association Show in English Saddle and Trail Obstacle divisions.
"I met another gal at my barn and we both wanted to start eventing, but I didn’t have much experience jumping," Channing shared. "We met our amazing trainer, Taylor Lindsten, and she has really helped us to get focused and develop a disciplined training program."
“In a sport where Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods represent a majority of the playing field, you might consider a Gypsy/Shire cross an uncommon candidate for the job,” Lindsten observed. “Having only worked with Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods prior to Romeo’s arrival, this was certainly my thinking." But, as Lindsten began Romeo’s eventing education, she found that the athleticism, scope, and temperament exhibited by the Drum Horse breed made him quite suitable as an event horse. And, she said, “The docile, family workhorse temperament [is] a core breed attribute.”
Romeo’s recognized eventing career began at the beginning of 2018 at the Southern Arizona Horse Trials, two hours away from Channing’s home in Scottsdale, Arizona. “We made a plan to have me pilot him around his first few horse trials until he learned the name of the game,” Lindsten explained. “Everywhere in between, Channing was responsible for making sure he was always well prepped for the events. Our goal was that through a balanced lesson and training schedule, when it came time for her to take the reins, the only thing changing would be the stirrup holes.”
With Lindsten in the irons, Romeo took home second place at his first recognized event. In May, he won the Open Beginner Novice division at the Coconino Spring H.T. on his dressage score of 31.5. Lindsten, Channing, and Romeo returned to Coconino for their Summer Series, where Romeo was second in the Open Beginner Novice division at the Coconino Summer I H.T. with Lindsten in the irons and fourth in the Senior Introductory division at the Coconino Summer II H.T. with Channing in the tack.
After a successful introduction to eventing in the spring, Lindsten and Channing decided that the next stop on Romeo’s calendar would be the 2018 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) at the Colorado Horse Park. "When we realized that he had qualified for the AEC, my husband didn’t hesitate to support the trip to Colorado Horse Park for an opportunity to compete with the nation’s top competitors," Channing said.
Romeo and Lindsten sat in second place in the Beginner Novice Horse Championship following dressage on a score of 28.1 and put in a faultless cross-country round to hold onto their position going into the final phase of competition on Sunday. An unfortunate rail dropped them back to fifth place, but Lindsten and Channing were nonetheless pleased with his result.
“At any level of eventing, developing a green horse for an event is a thorough and challenging process. I have been equally impressed with both my student and Romeo for their aptitude in a sport new to both of them, and their rate of progress and consistency,” said Lindsten. “Much can be said for the demeanor, trainability, and suitability that the Drum Horse breed has to offer as a competitive sport horse mount for the rider that is looking for both a flashy and smooth ride and a reliable and hardy partner.”
"Taylor has developed Team Romeo far beyond what anyone expected," Channing said. "As we move forward, I will be riding Romeo at the Las Cruces and Fresno Horse Trials. We will take it slow, as we are looking forward to many more years of competitions and adventures. My little Drum Horse is the best 'first horse' I could have ever hoped for. I have only been riding since 2011, and while my body is 52 years old, my heart is 12 years old when I’m with my 'forever horse.'"
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