By Ann Jamieson
Little Big Man
Little Big Man (Pony), a Dutch warmblood, was probably Laura’s “horse of a lifetime. He was solely mine; I was the only one who rode him. He was such a phenomenal athlete with the biggest heart in the world. I remember when I saw him as a four-year-old when he was just doing small jumpers. I loved him and it took me a while to get him because he was owned by a customer of Jimmy Torano’s. She wanted to sell and then didn’t want to and it took her a while to finally decide to sell him!”
The horse was a lot of horse for an amateur who didn’t have time to ride consistently, as he was young and green, with a lot of jump. “He’s probably not like any horse I’ve ever ridden in my life and I’ve been trying to find a horse like him again,” laughs Laura. “He has so much bounce and spring off the ground, very light, like he just pops off the ground. He has an electric feel, and he’s very smart, very clever. He understood the game and he probably wanted to win as much as you do, if not more.”
Because she bought him at such a young age and brought him along herself to Grand Prix with the help of her father, it was “such a phenomenal feeling to have accomplished that. We always consult each other in everything we do, so to achieve that was very special for me and my family.” Laura adds that he “was such a pleasure. He’s the most intelligent horse I’ve ever known, with the biggest personality. Still to this day he can sucker anyone who walks into this barn to come over to him and pet him.”
With Pony, Laura qualified for the Pan American Games but didn’t get to enjoy much of the experience. When the team flew down to compete, Little Big Man got sick upon arrival. His abdomen was wrapped around his spleen and the team spent the entire time there trying to rectify the situation, with everyone suffering a lot of sleepless nights. His groom and the vet the team had at the time took turns sleeping outside his stall up until the competition. Surprisingly it actually ended up being beneficial for him to show, as moving and jumping were helpful to him! Laura says it was “quite stressful and unbelievable that he competed as successfully as he did there given all that!” Yet they finished with a bronze medal, a testament to their relationship and to Little Big Man’s character.
“It’s always an honor to represent your country and to experience a competition like that,” Laura says. But it wasn’t your typical experience, as they spent most of the time either in the vet clinic or sleeping in front of Pony’s stall!
Right now Laura has two top Grand Prix horses, 17-year-old Chandon Blue (Charlie), and Diarado’s Flying Dutchman (Dutch). Chandon Blue (Chacco-Blue—Bluebell-Landcapitol), whom she owns along with her mother Mary, is “such a trier, he loves going in the ring and he’s won three or four Grand Prix a year. A couple of years ago he won six Grand Prix at WEF, along with top three finishes three other times.”
Laura says she is “very attracted to horses with a lot of personality. He’s been a great horse for me for a number of years. He tries his heart out. He’s been really good for me the entire time I’ve had him. He just continues to be such a star; he just loves attention and enjoys his job.”
Charlie gets very excited about competition, doing “this little dance, we call it, where he jumps the jump in the schooling area and jumps into the air. Age is not slowing him down; he is still going as strong as ever. Laura got the Oldenburg gelding from Irish Olympian Cian O’Connor, and gives him credit for helping her along the way with the horse. Many of her horses have come through Cian.
Charlie had been off for about a year with a minor injury when Laura purchased him, so when she got him when “he was just coming back.” In 2019 she took him to Wellington where he was “great!” In 2020 he suffered another minor injury. While no injury is a good one, she says that “It was kind of lucky that this extended break happened when a lot of shows were shutting down due to Covid.” He came back in Florida in great shape, “firing in every single class.”
Laura’s other Grand Prix mount, Diarado’s Flying Dutchman, won his first Grand Prix at Devon and had the only clear round in the Idle Dice Classic. At Lake Placid, they won the second Grand Prix class, the Richard M. Feldman Grand Prix. Along with her win the first week on Chandon Blue in the Great American Insurance Group Grand Prix Laura became just the seventh rider to sweep both Grand Prix! Riding two of the four horses that went clean out of a 21 horse field, Laura came back for the jump off to beat a time of 36.557 seconds held by Alex Matz, son of legendary Michael Matz, who had competed on a team with Laura’s father Frank. With a fast horse and a great ride, Laura came in just a little over a second under Alex’ time for the win!
While Laura has had Flying Dutchman for a couple of years, “It’s taken a bit because he’s a little high strung. He’s very nervous, he had to gain trust in me and I had to figure out exactly how he wants to be ridden. He’s a high energy horse and likes you to ride him in a certain way. He has a sort of rhythm and as long as he stays on his rhythm he’s great, but he can get too excited or distracted where he doesn’t think.”Keeping him focused is the main object with him. When I first got him my ride was very different than it is now so it took us a while for him to know what I was going to do and what I want. But he has a tremendous amount of ability!”
A Tremendous Year
Laura has been on an incredible winning streak in 2022. After a fall last year that led to complicated surgery and long-term rehab for her shoulder, she is more than making up for lost time. Winning the $50,000 Marshall & Sterling/Great American Insurance Group National Grand Prix in January at the Winter Equestrian Festival in a 45-horse field (with 11 in the jump-off) was a great way to tell the world she was back! “Charlie was really on a mission, and it all just came together,” she recalls. Laura says he “knew he’d done a good job so he was super happy about it!”
In March at WEF 11, Laura and Charlie scored the victory in the $50,000 Beerbaum Stables Grand Prix CSI2*. Starting with a field of 89 in Thursday’s qualifier 45 made it through to Saturday’s class. Olaf Petersen Jr. had set a challenging course with a tight time allowed, and 15 made it through to the jump off. It was a race to the finish, as Laura’s winning time was only four-hundredths of a second less than runner-up Jessica Springsteen!
Laura later received the Richard and Diana Feldman Perpetual Trophy for Excellence, which is awarded to the rider with the most combined money won in Lake Placid’s two Grand Prix. Her mother Mary Chapot was honored with the Leading Trainer award, making Lake Placid very much a family affair.
At HITS on the Hudson Laura and Diarado’s Flying Dutchman won the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, earning her second major win of the week after taking the $10,000 HITS 1.40m Jumper Classic earlier with Calafornia. She and Flying Dutchman also won the same event during HITS-on-the-Hudson III. In addition, she took the $30,000 Farmvet Open Jumper Classic on Charlie.
When asked if she had any other hobbies, or how she spends her free time, she answered, laughing, “What free time?” Laura spends all her time with horses, whether riding, training, teaching, or judging. She lives and breathes horses…and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My horses are my family. Horses have been part of my life forever and I probably tend to get more attached to my horses than I should…especially when you work with them for so long. You try and figure out what they want, what makes them happy. I would never want to do anything else. It’s just really nice that I can actually make a living doing something that I enjoy and that brings me a lot of happiness.”
About the Author: Ann Jamieson wanted to be a horse show judge since she was a child, and has now held her USEF “”r”” judge’s cards for over 30 years.
She writes about both horses, and travel, (and particularly loves combining the two). Ann is the author of the “”For the Love of the Horse”” series, four volumes of amazing true stories about horses, and the proud mom of her Secretariat grandson, Fred Astaire (Tucker).
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