For Jim Koford and Shirley McQuillan’s American bred Rhett, the summer spent in Europe training with Michael Klimke and competing with the best dressage competitors in the world paid off in the International Horse Sport Champions Cup CDI Grand Prix 3* with a 67.489 at the Horse Park at Equestrian Estates in Loxahatchee, Florida. “In the first year I came to Florida I struggled always finishing in the lower end of the class. But the opportunity to live, train and compete in Europe last summer gave my horse and me the confidence and experience to come back and do it right.” After riding in the warm up arenas of Europe among the likes of Isabelle Werth and Nadine Cappelman, Koford built his confidence, skill and experience and not only held his own but made the award ceremonies abroad as well. “When someone like Isabelle or Nadine are in the ring with you, they are focused and determined, and at first, I was a bit intimidated.” Koford added. “But I decided go big or go home, and that’s what we did.
With Rhett (the eleven-year-old 17.2 KWPN by R. Johnson out of McQuillan’s mare Madette) I realized size does matter, and after awhile I could claim my space in the warm up, and people stayed out of my way.”
McQuillan,who owns Touchstone Farm in Versailles, Kentucky is a well known equine chiropractor has been a breeder and lifetime horsewoman. "Rhett is Kentucky bred and born. His mom, Madette, is one of the two Dutch Harness Horse mares in my breeding program and he was her first American bred foal. You have to choose harness mares very carefully to be sure they have and pass on a great canter. Babsi Clark found her for me in Holland and she has given me 9 really great foals." McQuillan told DressageDaily. "Rhett was charming from day one. That's how he earned his name! He also had a bit of the devil in him that usually came out when you needed to catch him in a hurry. I sent him to my sister Colleen Gray to start and then he found Jim via Becky Barlowe.They were just meant to be together. I think foals are like children that way. They each have their own destinies and all you can do is love them, try to raise them right and find a job for them that they love. Rhett loves being a dressage horse. One of his younger brothers thought Dressage was less than fun and is now my competitive driving horse. I have three more younger siblings that were born to do dressage as well. Can't wait to see where their lives take them!"
“To win this CDI Grand Prix today was a wonderful thrill for me and my horse and owner Shirley McQuillan.” Koford added. A close second in the class were Florida based Canadian rider Shannon Dueck and her expressive mare Ayscha with a 66.362, and third riding for Australia was Kelly Lane and Raja with a 66.255%.
Koford who is mostly training on his own since his return to the United States admits he needs to listen the “the boss” USEF Dressage Technical Advisor Anne Gribbons, and work steadily with a trainer.” After Florida the duo are headed to Shirley’s farm in Versailles. “I love Kentucky.” said Koford, who had been based in North Carolina, and living somewhat of the gypsy life since taking to his High Performance quest.
This week has been a lucky one for Koford and Rhett. On Tuesday night the pair won the popular “Dressage Under the Stars” Freestyle Finale and $2500. "I am so excited to win," Koford stated after his performance still wearing his Batman mask. "This is a great horse who loved this rowdy crowd and really got into it. The second round was actually really fun to do and this whole event is great. This horse is 11 years old and I think it was great practice for him, in a fun and relaxing environment. Plus, under the lights adds another element for the horses and provided a great atmosphere to compete."
Koford and Rhett will be looking for a repeat performance today in the Grand Prix Special CDI*** this afternoon beginning at 3:10 PM. “I felt Rhett was getting a bit tired towards the end of the test,” Koford commented, as temperatures reached close to 90 degrees in South Florida. "Our pirouettes were big, and I knew that so I just tried to ride as clean a test as possible today. I know he has more in him and room to improve, and we will be working on that next."