Apr 20, 2023

The Strong Bond Between Jillian Newman and Curraghgraigue Freeman

By Jonathan Horowitz - USEA Staff
Jillian Newman with her mom, Molly Newman, and Curraghgraigue Freeman. USEA/Jonathan Horowitz photo

Jillian Newman’s journey to victory in the first-ever CCI1*-L held at Twin Rivers Ranch in Paso Robles, California, in the 17-year-old rider’s first FEI competition began when she saw a Facebook post about Curraghgraigue Freeman (Freeman VDL x Curraghgraigue Vella Erri) in the spring of 2021.

“I liked his size, and he looked like a good boy, but he had a pink nose,” Newman said with a laugh. “I really liked his face. He looked like he had a kind eye.”

Up until that point, Newman, who began competing in USEA-recognized events when she was 13 years old in 2019, had gone as high as the Novice level with Extra Stellar (Excalibur x Binary Star). However, the gray Canadian Warmblood mare suffered a suspensory injury just as Newman was planning to move up to Training. So, she and her family were looking for a new competition horse, and Newman was smitten by that pink nose and the potential the horse with the multi-syllabic, tongue-twisting name was showing as a 6-year-old.

Unfortunately, five days after the bay Irish Sport Horse gelding with a show jumping background in Ireland arrived in the United States in June 2021, he underwent colic surgery. It would be six months before Freeman could start riding her new horse, although that time did allow her to develop a bond that helped accelerate their journey through the eventing levels.

“It was rough, but it was nice because we got time where I got to know him, and he got to know me,” Newman said. “So, we trusted each other a lot before I started competing him.”

Jillian Newman and Curraghgraigue Freeman. Ride On Photo

She bestowed the barn name of “Quincy” on the gelding, and that barn name continues to take on several other iterations like “Q Man,” “Bikini,” and “Quinoa.”

“She’s very mature but also had to find the positive,” Jillian’s mother, Molly Newman, said. “Her mentioning that they bonded because we brought him home to rehab and spending the hours with him every day, that’s why he’ll do anything for her. Especially coming after her previous horse’s injury—and we still have her as well—we had no choice but to just go forward.”

Jillian Newman and Curraghgraigue Freeman. Ride On Photo

After Jillian could get in the saddle on Quincy in December 2021, they won their first event together in February 2022 at the Galway Downs Kickoff H.T. in their hometown of Temecula, California, in the Junior Novice Rider Division. They competed in seven USEA-recognized events together in 2022 with six top-five finishes and moved up to Modified for their final competition of the season in the Galway Downs International Event & H.T. in November.

In 2023, they were part of the first Modified level ever offered at Twin Rivers at the Twin Rivers Winter H.T. in March, finishing 14th of 26 with a score of 39.1. Before attempting their first FEI competition in the inaugural CCI1*-L at the 2023 Twin Rivers Spring International, Jillian and Quincy entered the Preliminary level at the Galway Downs International H.T. with the plan of doing dressage and show jumping at the higher level and then withdrawing before cross-country.

That set them up for the best dressage score they’ve ever had together in the CCI1*-L—27.0. They went double-clear on cross-country and added 1.6 time penalties in show jumping to finish with a score of 28.6.

“He’s great because he’s super brave,” Jillian said about Quincy. “So, the size of the jump was never an issue for him; it was just getting rideability. Now, he’s finally at a point where he’s so rideable and good.”

Said mom: “I’m just so proud of them as a team. Having him go through colic and everything that we did with rehab, he has a heart of gold and will try for her until the end of time. They are a truly bonded pair, and that makes me comfortable because the size of the jumps is very nerve-wracking. But, he will take care of her.”

Jillian Newman and Curraghgraigue Freeman. Ride On Photo

Jillian will graduate from Great Oak High School in Temecula this year and plans to attend Virginia Tech in the fall where she'll study environmental policy, join the Hokies eventing team, and compete in the USEA’s Intercollegiate Eventing Program.

“He’s going to come with me, and we’ll be on their eventing team,” Jillian said. “I like that they had the program that I wanted for school, and then I liked their eventing team because all the girls are so nice and close-knit. I’m really excited.”

When Jillian arrives in Blacksburg, Virginia, she’ll be competing in USEA-recognized events outside of California for the very first time.

“He loves her, and she loves him,” Molly said. “Ultimately, that’s why she chose Virginia Tech because it was the best environment for the two of them together.

Because of Quincy, Jillian will be bringing a big part of her home and so many lessons learned from the chestnut gelding with her to college.

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