Nickname: The Troll
Hometowns: Middleburg, Virginia, and Ocala, Florida
Basic stats: 15-year-old, 16.1-hand Dutch Warmblood mare
Owner: Team Rebecca
Rider: Lauren Kieffer
Groom: Shannon Kinsley
Exercise riders: Kim Ceceer and Lauren Mair
Background: Australian Olympian Scott Keach imported Veronica to the States and competed her through the Preliminary level before sending her to Lauren as a sales project. Team Rebecca then bought the mare for five-time Olympian Karen O’Connor, who guided her up to the four-star level before handing the reins back to Lauren upon her retirement in 2012.
The Troll’s nickname comes from her cranky facial expressions. She makes faces in the cross-ties and pins her ears at horses and people who pass her stall. “We joke that it hurts her to put them forward,” Lauren says. “The only time she puts them forward is when she works. She has a huge work ethic. She loves jumping and galloping.”
Earning The Troll’s trust is key. She likes to be cared for by people she knows well. In fact, despite her intimidating faces, she enjoys being hugged and scratched by “her” people. “She’s a very individual, smart mare—and she’s a survivor,” Lauren says. “She’s the horse you want to be on in The Walking Dead.”
In Veronica’s extensive travels around the world, “she’s taken every form of transportation there is—planes, trains, lorries, ferries—and she always eats, drinks and ships well.”
Her competition schedule typically includes two major CCI three-day events per year. She enjoys at least a month off after her spring three-day, then about two months off in the fall and early winter. Around Christmastime, she begins legging back up with hours of hacking and roadwork. “That’s when podcasts and audiobooks come in handy,” says Lauren.
Daily routine: Lauren believes the best way to promote horses’ health is to keep their lifestyles as natural as possible by giving them plenty of forage and time outside. “It prevents ulcers and keeps horses happier, too.” Veronica loves to be outside. Usually turned out overnight, she comes into the barn at around 7 a.m., then goes back out again in the early afternoon. During her breaks, she’s turned out 22 hours a day.
When she’s inside, she spends most of her time sleeping, often snoring and dreaming. “She twitches and canters in her sleep,” says Lauren. “She even snacks on her hay while she’s lying down.” If Shannon finds her napping when it’s time for her ride, she tries not to interrupt her and takes another horse out instead.
Nutrition: Despite her strenuous conditioning regimen, The Troll requires very little grain to maintain her weight, even right before a four-star event. She eats a small amount of Buckeye EQ8 Gut Health twice daily, plus all the high-quality timothy-mix hay she wants.
She also receives two routine supplements: SUCCEED for digestive health and APF (Advanced Protection Formula by Auburn Laboratories Inc.) to support her immune system.
The night before a long trip, The Troll’s team soaks her grain and gives her a bran mash. She’s also on Regu-mate during the show season. Lauren explains, “She’s not mean or witchy when she’s in heat, but she comes into heat so often that I figure this makes her more comfortable. And if there’s something we can do to help her, we do it.”
One of The Troll’s favorite treats is beer. She likes it warm—never cold. Shannon pours it directly into her mouth and Veronica sticks her tongue out to catch every drop.
Other care: After jump schools and gallops, Shannon cools down Veronica’s legs with Ice Horse wraps. The mare then wears stable bandages for the few hours while she’s in her stall. After cross-country courses, she stands in whirlpool boots that extend above her knees. Then she wears stable wraps overnight.
Whenever The Troll competes or gallops on unusually firm ground, Shannon packs her hooves afterward with Hooflex Magic Cushion Hoof Packing. She also does a little extra icing to soothe her legs.
Occasionally, Veronica’s farrier will apply pads under her shoes or pour urethane over the soles of her feet to protect her from especially hard ground. At the end of the competition season, he pulls her shoes so she can enjoy her holiday barefoot.
When in training, Veronica wears a magnetic and massage blanket every day. She’s also treated with a functional electrical stimulation unit once or twice a week, which Lauren says helps to relieve any soreness in her back.
The Troll’s favorite therapy is acupuncture. While she’s receiving it, her ears flop, her lower lip droops and she yawns frequently. She usually lies down to take a nap afterward. Lauren likes to use it at events the morning before dressage and about once a week at home when her work is more intense.
Second in the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI**** in 2014 and 2016 · Placed well in numerous other three- and four-star events around the world · Named the U.S. Eventing Association’s Mare of the Year in 2014 · U.S. Olympic team in Rio, 2016 · Top-20 placings in two of the sport’s most iconic four-star events, Badminton and Burghley, in England, in 2017.
This article was originally published in the January 2018 issue of Practical Horseman.