BY LAURIE SCOTT
Navy Guard marches around the hunter rings with a smoothness and grace that many of us remember from the horses of our teens. Light on his feet, with daisy cutter movement, he has won almost every hack class he’s ever entered—he’s won most of the jumping classes too. Navy Guard has been champion or reserve Take 2 Hunter at both June Skidmore horse shows from 2016 to 2020. That’s 10 tri-colors and 10 hack wins to date.
Trainer Gary Duffy of Wellington, Florida loved Navy Guard from the minute he first saw him. “Navy is a great mover and a very good jumper. He’s one of the best of the Thoroughbred breed, so consistent and honest. He’s an absolute pleasure to take to the ring.
Duffy found Navy Guard for his client, Melissa Rowe, in 2016. He was just off the track and lightly restarted. “I bought him off a video and Gary’s recommendation. You could just see how special he was. I loved his movement and his willingness to the jumps. I really wanted to find a Thoroughbred to bring along, so I just had to buy him,” said Rowe.
Navy Guard shipped up from Florida and headed right for the show ring. Since he hadn’t been shown before, the decision was made to hand the reins over to top hunter rider, Kristy Herrera. The pair started in the Baby Greens in May of 2016 at the Saratoga Springs I. They did two easy rounds to see how he would handle things. By the next week, Navy had already figured out how to horse show and won three of the 4 over fence classes, the hack, and his first championship in the Baby Greens at Saratoga Springs II. He’s never looked back.
“Navy Guard is so smart and had been exposed to so much at the track, that he just went into the show ring and jumped right around. I had to keep him balanced and help him regulate his pace, but he just wanted to do everything right,” said Herrera.
Herrrera and Navy continued to do things right and were Take 2 Hunter champion at both Skidmore Shows in 2016, 2017, and 2018. An unfortunate injury sidelined Herrera in 2019, so Alicia Heberle took the ride. She and Navy continued his streak of Take 2 hunter tri-colors and yet another plaque bearing the name Navy Guard was added to the Belcort Farm and Walter J. Lee Perpetual Trophy.
Navy lives at home with his owner, Melissa Rowe. While she rides him and keeps up his training, this year Covid 19 put a halt to all riding in New York State as people were asked not to take any risks that may have meant a trip to the emergency room. Rowe let Navy hang out while everything shut down. When the shows started up again, she wasn’t sure he’d be ready. But in true Thoroughbred style, he picked right back up and went to work, looking forward to each session and the treats that followed.
Kristy Herrera and Navy Guard reunited for the first Saratoga Springs horse show of 2020. While Navy was a little rusty, he won the hack and the Take 2 Classic and was again Reserve Champion. By the second Saratoga Springs show, Navy was back in top form and since Herrera had a conflict, Linda Orton took up his reins and the brand new team continued the streak with a Take 2 Thoroughbred Championship ribbon again.
“This horse has such a big heart. He just wants to do everything right. I grew up riding Thoroughbreds, so I really love them. It was a lot of fun to ride such a great horse this weekend and the Take 2 classes give us a place to really showcase them,” said Orton.
Navy Guard is a 2010 gelding, sired by Unbridled’s Song and out of Fleet Lady by Avenue of Flags.
Laurie Scott is a trainer, rider and aspiring polo player from Saratoga Springs, New York. She’s also the proud mother of Sophia and Francesca Calamari.