It’s a little after 8:30am at Gladewinds Farm in Wellington, Florida, and Margie Engle is already on her third ride of the day. Next to the arena in a 30-stall barn with white walls and hunter green shutters, a grey face is looking out of the second stall on the left hand side, waiting for his turn.
To the uninformed eye, 17-year-old Indigo (Indoctro x Unknown) looks like any other horse. But, far from slowing down and bracing for retirement, this Dutch Warmblood gelding has lost none of his scope and quickness, as proven by his recent 2nd place finish in the $86,000 Marshall and Sterling Grand Prix CSI2* at the Winter Equestrian Festival.
With breakfast long finished, Engle’s groom and manager Bernie is setting the feed for lunch. On a normal day, Indigo, who stands at 16.3, is turned out right after breakfast. He loves being outside more than anything.
“He loves his turnout and he’ll nap under the overhang and whenever he’s ready to come in he just walks up to the gate. He makes his own schedule,” Bernie says. “He’s so high energy, so when has a show break I try to keep him really chilled out. I like to keep him in a routine at home and let him be a horse. He’s very sharp and he always has to move, so he hates being stuck in a stall at a show, especially if there are no windows. I always try to hand walk him to keep him entertained.”
In the cross ties he’s very well behaved, and he loves being brushed and scratched with the currycomb. His saddle pad sports the Miami Dolphins logo, in a nod to Engle’s partnership with one of the team’s owners. Indigo is Engle’s most veteran partner; in 2012 they topped the Olympic Trials for the United States Show Jumping Team, and they’ve appeared in two FEI World Cup Jumping Finals together, in 2011, and 2012. Since then, Indigo has racked up top placings around North American with Engle.
As he’s aged, his condition has remained flawless, and carefully managed by Engle and her team.
“For the most part he just does flatwork, and if he shows a lot we don’t school him at home,” said Bernie. “He knows his game and he’s a total pro in the ring. If he has a long show break we school him a little over jumps, but he doesn’t really jump at home. He’ll just warm up in the ring before a show.”
On “do what you want Tuesday,” there is no high impact work in sight for Indigo, so following a 30 minute hand walking session that allowed him to see the sights and graze on the well kept lawn, he is tacked up for light flatwork in the field with Bernie, followed by a trail ride down the road.
When Engle meets up with Indigo and Bernie, she sketches her plan for the season for him. This will be their seventh year together.
“He has a break now,” Engle says. “I may go to Ocala with him the week after next, but WEF is very demanding and we have a lot of horses so he has a light schedule. I don’t overshow him. He’s really earned his keep and he has a huge heart, and I want to keep that in him.”
As for talks of retirement, don’t count out Indigo anytime soon.
“He enjoys his job and he loves jumping,” Engle says. “He goes to he horse show and grows about another foot. You have to hold him back, as he wants to go all the time. He’s so light in his feet and he really loves life and never seems to get tired, so he won’t be retired until he tells me that he wants to be.”