BY CATIE STASZAK
It certainly helped that it was one of the most beautiful mornings of the winter in Wellington. But, when I got a leg up aboard Quattro, I knew I was going to have a good day.
To say that I’m constantly on the go might be a bit of an understatement, and the morning of March 3 was no exception. I had two horses to ride before I was due in at work in full dress attire. I was live streaming from the Second Annual Deeridge Derby at the stunning Deeridge Farms in Wellington, FL, later that day. I was prepared to speed up my shower and eat lunch in my car on the way to the show. Then, when Eric Hasbrouck offered me the opportunity to take a test ride on the spokes-horse for his new program, I decided to do as much cramming in my schedule as necessary to make it happen.
Hasbrouck doesn’t need much of an introduction as his accomplishments are readily known: veteran of the 1998 World Equestrian Games, international course designer, a chef d’equipe, and a member of the Olympic Selection Committee. But lesser known is this latest venture begun with Diana Walters, owner of North Salem, New York’s The Pavillion Farm where Eric is head trainer. The project endeavors to make showing at top-rated competitions like the Winter Equestrian Festival more accessible to those new to the sport, with lesser budgets, or like me, demanding schedules.
“The origin of it, we have to give credit to Eric,” said Walters. “He modeled it after executive jet sharing programs, where you share pieces of an airplane in a timeshare. Instead of airplane or condo, the asset is the partial ownership of a horse.”
Through Hasbrouck’s program, you have the option of purchasing a half-share or a full-share of a horse in his program. A half-share includes 2-3 lessons a week, and a full share includes six rides or lessons a week. The program can be done monthly, but usually it’s a two to three month program during which Hasbrouck and assistant Meghan Kanz do the instruction. What’s most intriguing about the program is that when a share is purchased, it’s not one individual horse. Participants ride multiple horses in the program, and they are matched up after being evaluated by Hasbrouck. Some horses are veteran schoolmasters. Others might be sale horses in the barn. Regardless, all are of high quality and go through an extensive vetting process to make sure they are reliable mounts suitable for different types and styles of riders. Sharing the cost with other shareholders makes the venture significantly more affordable.
“There are a variety of reasons where we can see there would be a demand for this,” Walters said. “There might be a rider that is interested in buying or leasing a horse, but doesn’t know what they want or where they want to do it. There might be a rider graduating from high school and going to college, and the parents want to gift them a summer of showing. There might be a rider who has one horse and wants to have a second horse to ride for a period of time.”
Ding, ding, ding. I’m blessed to lease one incredible mare and show when I’m not traveling for work. I wouldn’t trade her for anyone, but I’d love to get more ring time when I’m able. And while Hasbrouck didn’t match me with Quattro, it didn’t take me long to laughingly realize that he was just the horse I had mentally pictured in my head at the thought of a prospective mount. He was light in the bridle and required some leg to move forward. But, he carried himself, especially when he set his eyes on a fence. He had a high head carriage, allowing for the perfect amount of contact. He also had a bouncy, light step at the trot and a rocking horse canter that spread a grin across my face as we journeyed around the perimeter of the blissfully empty arena at Nona Garson’s The Ridge facility where Hasbrouck based for the winter season.
“He likes you!” Hasbrouck called out from his corner perch on the rail. “You could sit his canter all day!”
Could I ever.
After a few more minutes of delightful hacking, I brought Quattro back over to the rail, and Hasbrouck educated me on some more details of the program. Quattro had been leased out by several program participants and had a rider coming in to show the following week. Ryan Baldwin and Quattro posted some fantastic results despite their limited time together, including a fourth-place finish of 54 riders in the Low Children’s Jumper Classic at WEF 9.
“The program gave him an opportunity to show at WEF that he wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Hasbrouck explained.
The program has also helped bring more people into the sport.
“My favorite use [of the program] is to get somebody who loves the sport and is learning a lot and ultimately wants to buy a horse, but wants to lease one and experience the process,” Walters explained. “It’s a bridge that allows them to understand what they like and don’t like—a taste of the sport without all of the risk. That to me is the home run, when a new or younger client is able to use the program and shift into a longer-term solution.”
The program has so far allowed people to show at WEF, Spruce Meadows, Lake Placid, and a significant number of other major shows. Others who don’t want to do a high level of sport can have access to schooling shows.
“To them, [schooling shows] are just as big a deal as a Grand Prix at WEF,” Walters said.
As the broadcast analyst for the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping North American League, one of my greatest goals is to increase the exposure of our amazing sport. As a 26-year-old, I also understand that participation in our sport requires a large financial investment that is not possible for everyone. Hasbrouck’s program bridges that gap. Even if a participant can’t afford to buy a horse at the program’s end, he or she will be better educated and feel better connected to the sport, causing them to want to stay involved in whatever way they can. Hats off to Hasbrouck and Walters for their creative idea. And if Quattro is still available, I might be calling them this summer!