She wears a red ribbon in her tail and she looks like a handful on course, but it’s nothing rider Nicki Shahinian-Simpson can’t handle. The 10-year-old-mare Akuna Mattata is part of the family–and a big one.
“Nahla” is a triplet, out of Nicki’s former USET team horse SRF Dragonfly. With her double clear round in the Longines FEI World Cup Thermal yesterday, Nahla finished fifth and one-upped her sisters, who weren’t in the race here. “It’s really been a fun journey,” said Nicki of raising the sisters for owners Carol Rosenstein and her daughter, amateur rider Katie Polk. “As we brought them along and they came up the ranks, they competed against each other and they were often first, second and third. They’re all very honest, very competitive.”
Carol and Katie were first-time breeders when they decided to preserve Dragonfly’s great temperament, heart and abilities. They chose the Thoroughbred sire Quinar, (by Quidam de Revel) to bring a little refinement and some blood to the pairing. Breeding is a gamble regardless of experience level, and the newbies were happily surprised to get four embryos, three of which were carried to term by surrogate mares as Dragonfly continued her career with Nicki.
The three sisters have similarities and differences. Like Nahla, April Moon has entered the Grand Prix ranks. “She’s kind of tall and lean, but very catty, kind of a taller version of her mother.” On a brief lay-up at the moment, April Moon is expected to return to the show ring soon. The third sister, Abbey Road, “is the sports model,” and “looks like a conformation hunter,” Nicki says. The smallest of the triplets, Abbey Road will likely excel as a Junior Hunter, the rider predicts.
Their most distinct trait is “heart and try” that comes from their mom. “Dragonfly, aka ‘Foxy,’ was a horse who didn’t know what she couldn’t do,” Nicki explains. “She always gave her all and probably ended up doing more than most would have expected. She gave you everything and jumped some incredible tracks in Europe, like Hickstead and Rome. She’s also one that really took care of herself in the barn. She was very smart that way.”
Nahla’s inherited intelligence comes out in many ways. “As much as she’s a handful and opinionated on course, she’s as quiet as could be in the barn. As soon as she’s done competing, she’s a different horse. And she knows the difference between a Wednesday class and the big Grand Prix class: she’s very intuitive.”
The West Coast will be seeing more of these sisters since Nicki moved to the San Francisco area to work privately for the family of author and journalist Sloan Lindemann Barnett. Nicki spent much of her young professional career in California, but has been in Wellington, Florida for the last several years. Since the triplets reached riding age, they’ve been with Nicki wherever she’s been based. Carol and Katie just have the three Dragonfly babies, but there could be more in the future. Dragonfly was sold to a Brazilian rider in 2009 and Nicki believes she is having more youngsters.