During the USDF Region 5 Championship at West World of Scottsdale, AZ, there was a special retirement ceremony for a special horse, and not a dry eye in the stands. Teri Patton-Rich honored her longtime partner Fontainebleau, the 17-year-old Hanoverian (by Wanderer) gelding she has owned for 13 years. “This is a story everyone can relate to. There have been many horses like him that we hold in our hearts. They may not be famous to the world but they still deserve to be honored and celebrated. It is the story of a horse that doesn’t make it to the Olympics, World Cup, or Pan Am Games, but that challenges the ones that do.” Teri told the crowd. “He always took care of me. When he was at his best, I was at my worst. When he helped me qualify for Gladstone, I was going through one of the most trying times in my life, a very difficult divorce.” The horse who could not recover from a fractured hock, helped heal his owner’s fractured heart in more ways than one.
Fontainebleau’s career gave his owner Teri Patton-Rich her career as a dressage trainer and FEI level rider known and respected among her peers. “Fontainebleau was a fun horse to work with,” said trainer and fellow competitor Kathleen Raine. “He has so much presence and power!! I always enjoyed pushing Terry to show off that incredibly fancy trot! I always enjoyed working with him because he always tried so hard!”
Since importing the 18 hand gelding bred by Heinrich Heemke as a four-year-old from Germany, he earned year end awards though the levels in their state and region all the way to the 2008 USDF Grand Prix Region 5 Championship. In January 2009 Fontainebleau competed and won the $5000 “Mustang Smackdown”, a competition of the best-trained horses in a variety of disciplines. Their last show at Grand Prix was at the 2009 Del Mar Horse show where they were third in the CDI Freestyle.
In January of 2010 Fontainebleau fractured his pastern joint. After a year of extensive veterinary care he had fully recovered. He came back to compete Prix St George in June 2011 at the CDI in Rancho Murrieta. In July it was discovered that he had developed a career ending subchrondral fracture of his hock and after everything was done to help him heal back to the life he loved doing dressage, Teri decided to retire Fontainebleau.
It was at the ceremony Teri was joined by her husband of four years, Dr. Ross Rich. “Sometimes, I even say that Fontainebleau brought my husband and I together, as a vet call on Fontainebleau led to our very first date 5 years ago.”
Teri was finding it very hard to let go of a dream and a long time friend and at the suggestion of a good friend set the wheels in motion for his night to be honored at the Region 5 Championships, where he had earned top honors from from the 1999 Arizona Dressage Association Training Level Horse of the Year, to qualifying for the National Dressage Championships in Gladstone in 2009.
After a champagne toast for all in the crowd who came to celebrate, Fontainebleau earned his retirement tenfold and is living the life of a king comfortably at Teri’s barn, Carefree Dressage, In Carefree Arizona.