Kimberly Crane never expected she’d find her next eventing partner eight years ago after her farrier Matt Davis offered to let her sit on a Princess Buttercup, a 15.2-hand Gypsy Vanner-Clydesdale cross he’d gotten from a rescue for his wife.
“He brought out this hairy little swayback paint thing, and I was like, what is that?” she remembered. “I got her in January, and we spent the rest of the winter just getting her going and putting his wife on her a little bit. She was very green broke. She walked and galloped basically when I got her and had never been indoor, which was challenging.”
Crane, Rochester, New York, was sitting on any horse she could while her eventing horse was out of commission with an injury when she started riding “Splash.” The mare had been bred to be a jousting horse, but after her owner got divorced, she and her dam were donated to a therapeutic riding center. Davis bought her and had 30 days of training put on her, but then she sat for six years at his farm before he offered to let Crane play around with her.
Once Crane got Splash going, Davis’ wife decided riding wasn’t for her, and he tried to sell her, but without much luck.
In the meantime, Crane started taking Splash cross-country schooling, albeit in a dressage saddle to start with because that’s all she had that fit her, and Splash showed some aptitude.
“She kind of popped over things. She wasn't super brave, but she didn't say no,” Crane said. “I played around with it. I kept telling my trainer, ‘I'm too big, and she kept saying, ‘No, you're not too big.’ My other horse was 17 hands, and this one's only 15.2.”
Crane took Splash to an intro horse trial and was pleasantly surprised. “I didn't know that she'd actually be able to do it, but she did it, and then she just kept getting braver and braver,” she said.
As she turned 40, Crane got the bad news that her event horse’s injury was career-ending, so she decided to give herself a birthday present and bought Splash for herself.
When it came time to give Splash a registered name with USEA, she chose Princess Buttercup after her favorite movie, “The Princess Bride.”
“It started out as a joke because she was kind of a diva, so I started calling her Princess, and then Princess Buttercup,” she said with a laugh. “And then I was like, ‘Well, I can't name her that; I can't register her with that because it's a pony name.’ And my trainer was like, ‘Who cares? Go ahead.’ ”
Crane grew up in the hunter world and started volunteering at the Stuart Horse Trials in New York. She volunteered for 15 years and eventually decided to try eventing. She didn’t do her first event until she was in her 30s on a horse she trained herself, and since she’s had Splash, has competed at Beginner Novice. The pair have competed at the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds twice. She’s currently training with Carol Kozlowski and Troy Wing.
Crane describes Splash as not very mareish and a “one-person horse.” “She really relies on her rider, and she's very attached,” she said. “She comes right up and is very affectionate and wants to be with you. She actually hates other horses and prefers people.”
Splash is quite well-known in Area I and has lots of fans. She’s currently recovering from an injury, but Crane is hopeful to be back riding next year.
“I've gotten lots of comments,” said Crane, 48. “I'll go to shows and people will show up at the ring just to watch her and tell me, ‘I just had to come see you jump.’ She's actually very neat with her legs, and I get lots of compliments on her. I had a couple of dressage judges, even at recognized events be like, ‘OK, I have to ask what is she?’ I've had volunteers that fell in love with her at events. She kind of has her own fan club in the valley up here in New York.”
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As they hiked through the Galway Irish countryside, Shelley Bridges and John Whelpley soon found themselves amid a herd of curious Irish Draught mares grazing calmly around them. Bridges, an endurance rider extraordinaire with a well-known, educated eye for all things horse, noticed one of the mares in particular and said, “What about that one?” and our unlikely story began.
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The U.S. Equestrian Federation is pleased to announce the Eventing Pathway Program Lists for 2024, including the Elite, Pre-Elite, Development, and Emerging Programs. In addition to these Eventing Pathway Program updates, several opportunities will be available in 2024 for both Program and non-Program athletes.
The United States Eventing Associations’ (USEA) Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) is pleased to announce the dates and location of the upcoming 2024 ECP Symposium. The annual ECP Symposium, which is held in the southeast to accommodate the migration of eventers for the winter season, will be hosted at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala, Florida, on Jan. 30 – Feb. 1, 2024. This three-day immersive educational experience is recommended for anyone who is interested in learning more about eventing coaching, including current coaches, riders, parents, owners or avid supporters. Click here to download the registration form today!