Although the veteran of 17 World Cup finals isn’t shooting for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Paris this year (she doesn’t have a horse at the moment who is suited for that particular challenge) she was happy to have done so well at the CP Palm Beach Masters. “This event is probably one of the best events and nicest events we go to all year. They’ve all done an amazing job,” she said.
Nancy Jaffer caught up with her after the competition to find out more about the engaging Royce, the horse Margie has ridden for seven years after buying him from Russian rider Ljubov Kochetova.
Q: What is Royce’s character?
A: He’s like an overgrown puppy dog, like a little kid. He likes to nibble on everything. He thinks everything’s a toy for him. He grabs a broom if it’s by his stall and starts sweeping. He actually hit someone once with the broom! He’s just a real character. Everything’s a game for him, even when he’s jumping the jumps.
Q: When he’s not jumping, what does he like to do?
A: He’s a happy-go-lucky type horse. He likes to sleep a lot. He lies down and gets his naps in. He’s very laid-back with everything, except the victory gallops. That’s the only thing he doesn’t like. He loves attention. It’s a treat for him to grab anything. It’s like little kids, everything goes in their mouths. If you have it, he wants it in his mouth.
Q: I know you’ve been having (Olympian) Lisa Wilcox work with him in dressage to improve his rideability. How does that go?
A: He’s okay with it. He’s getting better and better. I don’t know that he loves it, but he’s a good egg about it: “Okay, if I’m supposed to do this, I’ll try hard.” I come and watch Lisa ride at 7 in the morning. She’s an amazing rider. I learn a lot visually, the way I did when I was younger before I could afford riding too much and could mainly take clinics.
Q: Is Royce still a work in progress?
A: It’s constant. We’re still always working on it. He’s always had the jump in him and been careful and had the scope and amazing power. But in the beginning, even turning him was difficult. I didn’t have that much rideability between the jumps. And now he rides around really easy. It’s made a big difference. My husband (veterinarian Steve Engle) does a lot of chiropractic work with him. He had a lot of places where he was stuck, he’s so big and bulky. Steve helped to make him a lot more flexible and limber so he can turn more easily. He’s never going to be a fast, fast horse, because he spends a lot of time in the air. He’s a bit of an overachiever. But he’s learning to go faster and faster and gotten better each year.
Q: What made you want to buy him?
A: He’s not normally a type I would be attracted to, but he’s got so much power and ability. I fell in love with him when I first saw him.
Q: What’s his favorite treat?
A: He likes anything. He eats banana peels or anything you’re eating. But he’s very polite the way he takes it. If he’s in the paddock and I say "Royce," he comes right over, like a dog, and very politely takes the banana peel. He reminds me a lot of (Hidden Creek’s) Perin. He had the sweetest personality. Royce is much mouthier. He’s very oral.
Q: Are you going to breed him?
A: He’s been collected a few times. I have a mare that Hidden Creek owns we’re going to try to breed to him. I have to breed him to the right type. She’s very thoroughbredy type and lighter boned. You don’t want something too big and heavy.