Though you wouldn't necessarily know he had the scope and ability just by looking at him in a stall, McLain Ward's longtime mount, Rothchild, has spent the past decade showing the world that 1.60m horses are built from the inside out. Despite his somewhat unconventional jumping style and a stature on the small side, Rothchild's huge heart and desire to win has earned him a list of accolades a mile long.
Sure, his theatrics on course are eye-catching, but his ability to deliver clear round after clear round is what we'll miss the most. Though he will be officially retiring from the show ring at The American Gold Cup next month, something tells me Rothchild’s signature sass and incredible talent will live on for a very long time.
Sagamore Farms’ 17-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding has been McLain’s mount since 2007, and together they’ve racked up a glittering record. Team bronze and fifth individually at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy in 2014, individual gold and team bronze at the 2015 Pan-American Games in Toronto, winner of the 2015 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup of Great Britain at Hickstead, and second in the $500,000 CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix at the 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival are just a few of Rothchild’s many accolades.
As if his success in the show ring wasn't enough, Rothchild holds a special place in McLain's heart for another reason: he was one of the last horses hand-picked by his father, Barney Ward, before he passed away in 2012.
Photo by Anthony Trollope
“He is one of my all-time favorites,” says Lee McKeever, McLain’s right-hand man, and Rothchild’s long-time caretaker. “I think one of my favorite moments with him was at the WEG in Normandy. He just stepped up so much and did it so easily.”
In addition to his WEG and Pan-American medals, some of Rothchild's brightest moments include:
- Winner, $250,000 Sapphire Grand Prix, Devon 2017
- Winner, $380,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5*, Winter Equestrian Festival 2016
- Winner, AIG $1 Million Grand Prix, HITS Thermal 2016
- Winner, CSIO4* Nations Cup, Ocala 2016
- Second, Real American $1 Million Grand Prix, HITS Ocala 2015
- Winner, $210,000 CP Grand Prix Continental Tournament, Spruce Meadows CSI 5* 2015
- Winner, Longines Global Champions Tour of Antwerp Grand Prix, 2014
- Winner, Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Toronto, Royal Horse Show 2013
Photo by Bret St. Clair
Going double-clear is something that “Bongo,” as he's known around the barn, is awfully good at, so he gets away with pinning his ears and throwing a few bucks on course because he's a champion, through and through. He's also produced consistent rounds well into his teens and is a shining example of what a horse with heart will do for his rider.
When asked what he’ll miss most about watching Bongo in the ring, Lee simply says, “His buck after the last fence when he knows he's won.”
So, to the 2015 USEF International Horse of Honor, the unconventional jumper, the little man with the big heart: we’ll miss your attitude in the ring, but we wish you the happiest of retirements. You’ve certainly earned it.
Feature photo by Anthony Trollope
Written by Kate Kosnoff
Kate Kosnoff is an equestrian journalist, blogger and photographer. When she isn’t working, Kate can usually be found sipping green tea, scrolling through Twitter, or petting her horses—sometimes a combination of the three. She is based in Indiana and can often be spotted in jumper rings across the Midwest and Florida aboard her strawberry roan, Waffle.