Mar 03, 2020

USEA Horse of the Month: Relentless Pursuit

By Claire Kelley - USEA Staff

He started his eventing career 19 years ago, he recently placed second at the Ocala Winter I H.T. in the Preliminary Rider division with Amanda Gardiner, he was a demo horse for this year’s 2020 USEA Educational Symposium, and he’s 24 years old – Relentless Pursuit is the USEA March Horse of the Month. Relentless Pursuit (A Lee Rover x Sumptious Gal) is a 1996 Thoroughbred gelding owned by Dana and Pamela Widstrand and currently ridden by Amanda Gardiner.

Over the past 19 years, he’s made two trips to Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L with Dana Widstrand, he won the individual gold medal at the 2003 North American Young Riders Championship CCI2*-L, and finished fourth individually to secure the team gold medal at the 2006 North American Young Riders Championship CCI3*-L. He’s taken two riders to their first Preliminary level event, and has finished in the top five at least once with every rider he’s had: Dana Widstrand, Jaime Kalisz, Evan W. Clark, and Amanda Gardiner. He’s recorded a total of 38 top-five finishes since 2001.

Relentless Pursuit doing his favorite phase with Amanda Gardiner at Rocking Horse. Photo courtesy of Amanda Gardiner.

In 1999, Relentless Pursuit was bought off the track by a 15-year-old Dana Widstrand who had not competed above the Novice level. Over the years, the pair climbed the ranks of eventing together and picked up top finishes at every level. Now, he’s creating another fairytale story with Amanda Gardiner by taking her to her first Training, Preliminary, and international level events. Gardiner and Relentless Pursuit earned a spot on the USEF U18 program in 2019 and have already started the 2020 season with top finishes.

Learn more about the horse who loves to compete and has a dislike for blankets from his current rider Amanda Gardiner.

Amanda Gardiner and Relentless Pursuit in the Preliminary level show jumping group at the 2020 USEA ICP Symposium at Barnstaple South. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

About Relentless Pursuit:

  • Barn Name?

“Rover, Roger, Doodlebug (Thoroughbred registered name: Super Rover).”

  • Favorite treat?

“Peppermints and gingersnaps.”

  • Favorite phase in eventing?

“Cross-Country. He smiles the entire way around [with his] ears pricked, searching for flags!”

  • Personality traits?

“Rover is a bit more introverted with strangers. He loves his kid, Amanda Gardiner, and only accepts kisses from her and from his mom, Dana Widstrand.”

  • Likes?

“Competing. He always takes note when trunks are getting packed and assumes it's for him to compete.”

  • Dislikes?

“Blankets - he thinks he should always be naked, [and] vacation, he gets pretty grumpy when he's not in work.”

Rover and Gardiner at the USEF U18 Winter Training Sessions. Megan Gardiner Photo.

Rover’s longtime owner, Dana Widstrand shared more on her horse of a lifetime. “My unicorn took me around every level of our amazing sport from Novice, Training, Preliminary, Intermediate, and Advanced to the international levels of one-star, two-star, three-star, and four-star. I always joked that Rover was a five-star horse - and now with the levels being renamed, he really is a five-star horse.”

“As Rover's 'biological' mom, I could probably name every person that has ever ridden Rover, as there have not been many. Rover has spent almost his whole life under my care, aside from the Gardiners', and he doesn't have much tolerance for anyone other than Amanda, including me. I will never be able to express how fortunate I am to have found the Gardiners. They understand this horse and they understand me. I am honored that Rover has been chosen as Horse of the Month, but he is my horse of a lifetime, and he is earning that spot with Amanda as well."

"Rover may not be able to bring Amanda through all of the levels that he brought me to, but he has added to her education as a rider and horsewoman and continues to do so. He loves competing. He knows the horse show routine and transforms from the cranky, leave-me-alone type to the happiest most eager horse in the world. He has a know-it-all attitude but would do anything in his power to please his rider and is guilty of trying too hard sometimes. He has a soft spot for teenage, horse-crazy girls who dote and fuss over him even though he would not openly admit that to anyone. He's the strong silent type right up until his girl gives any sort of attention to anyone but him. He's truly a special horse who just loves competing and secretly loves being the center of attention,” said Widstrand.

Foshay International in 2018. Photo courtesy of Dana Widstrand.

Miss any of the previous horses? The USEA January Horse of the Month was Z and the USEA February Horse of the Month was Rock On Cooley.

About the USEA Horse of the Month

The USEA is recognizing an event horse each month on the USEA website and social media. The USEA Horse of the Month is determined based on statistics and event results and announced at the beginning of every month. The March Horse of the Month was selected based on the performance at the 2020 USEA Educational Symposium at Barnstaple South in Ocala, Florida.

Dana Widstrand and Relentless Pursuit at the Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2014. USEA Photo.
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