For the next 6 weeks, we'll be honoring the deep bond between horse and rider in our series, A Letter to My Horse. On June 29, we'll be releasing details on how you, too, can participate! We'll be choosing 3 top reader submissions to this series, and along with some pretty awesome prizes, winning pieces will be published on NoelleFloyd.com. Follow along with the series and keep your eyes peeled for details!
It took me almost a year to buy you. I first watched you jumping with Liubov Kochetova when you were six years old, and I knew you had amazing, raw talent. You were heavier, with bigger bones, than I normally liked in a horse, and you were definitely not the most broke. When she finally agreed to let me buy you (we had to sign a contract saying we weren’t buying for resale), you weren’t easy to get on. You were just a lot of horse, with a ton of pent-up energy. I remember them telling me, You can’t turn him out, he’ll go crazy.
Were you hard to handle at first? Yes. But I didn’t set out to change you. Why would I? You are a powerful and affectionate and funny stallion who always gives me everything in the ring. We just had to learn to work together and solve the issues.
When I first got you, you had never really been turned out. You were used to going from the stall to the ring with a rider on your back. But I wanted you to just be a horse, to be able to roll and play and get dirty. We decided to build you this huge pen so you could learn to go out before we put you in the stallion pen, and I don’t think you even knew what to do at first. You kept leaping up, straight off the ground, and then getting down and rolling around. But eventually, with time, you figured things out.
Margie and Royce. Photo by Dani Maczynski.
Even once we got going, there were challenges. We had some rideability problems and a few rough shows. There were moments when it felt like the steering almost went out. You took a while to get broke nicely on the flat. I tried fixing things by using different bits, but that’s just a short-term solution. Lucky for both of us, Lisa Wilcox’s great dressage work has been very instrumental in helping you be more rideable on the flat and more responsive to both leg and hand, which in turn made you ride better when jumping. We worked together to stretch your muscles out, getting you more elastic and broke, and to help you get comfortable.
Again, we just had to take the time to really figure things out. With each horse, you learn something different; you never reach perfection, and things are always a work in progress. And while I know you have taught me so much over the years, the main thing that stands out to me is patience. It’s like peeling back layers of the onion, you just get a little bit at a time, day after day. There are no quick fixes; it always takes time. And, it really is a team effort.
But for a horse with your quality and talent, it’s always worth it.
Royce. Photo by Erin Gilmore for NoelleFloyd.com.
Almost a decade down the road, all I can say is that I am so happy you came into my life. It doesn’t matter what kind of mood I’m in, you are always there to make me smile. You are goofy, with a great sense of humor, and I can’t help but love you. Everyone loves being around you at the barn. You are funny and eager to please. You are happy doing whatever, as long as you are the center of attention. And if we aren’t paying attention, you won’t hesitate to pick up a broom and swat someone in the rear end to get them to turn around and give you pats and scratches. We have developed a strong bond, and I know that you know me and know my voice.
Even if you aren’t naturally the fastest horse in the class, you are always willing to give it a shot. You’re brave, and if I ask for something crazy, to leave out a stride way out, you aren’t afraid to try whatever I ask. You have been so good in so many classes, it’s hard to pick a favorite memory. But one that sticks out to me is our $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix win in WEF 2018. It was a big 5* with a lot of top horse and rider combinations. That night was my birthday and Wellington is my hometown, and it almost felt like you knew it was a special day and place. You really gave me 100% that night, and it meant so much to me to share that moment with you.
With everything going on in the world right now, the future is uncertain. There won’t be any big shows this summer, so we are taking a longer break than planned. But you don’t care if we are at a horse show or at home, as long as everyone is paying attention to you and you are getting the affection you deserve. I hope you stay healthy and we can still give Tokyo a shot in 2021, but right now we are just enjoying our time together. So much is outside of our control, in this sport and in life, but you show us every day how to relax, be a little goofy, and have fun, how to enjoy the presence of those we love and make each other smile and laugh.
Royce and his broom. Photo courtesy of Margie.
Now that we have your babies in the barn, you have really brought me full circle. When I was younger, that’s how I started; because of my size I worked with the babies and young horses. It’s funny to see that your babies all have your personality. One of your babies that I have in the barn now, she will come running over and stand there and want me to scratch her. When she wants a different spot, she moves and pushes her way over. She’s hysterical…and just like you. When I see your babies, I can’t help but smile. They make me remember why I got into this and why I keep going.
So thank you, Royce, for being you, and for bringing so much happiness to our barn and to our family. I know my husband and all the people around us feel the same way. You are a real pleasure to have. Thank you for being such a comedian, and for always putting a smile on our faces and keeping us on our toes. Life with you is never boring!
As told to Cheryl Witty-Castillo. Feature photo by Meghan Bacso.
Written by Margie Engle
Margie Goldstein-Engle is one of the most decorated American show jumpers out there. She's been named the AGA Rider of the Year a record 10 times, placed in the top 10 both individually and as a team in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, was the 2003 Individual gold and Team bronze medalist at Pan-Am Games in Santo Domingo, and a 2006 Team silver medalist at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen.