Practical Horseman - - Center Court -

NICK­NAME: Billy OC­CU­PA­TION: Hunter HOME­TOWN: Tem­ple­ton, Cal­i­for­nia BA­SIC STATS: 8-year-old, 16.3-hand Hol­steiner geld­ing SIRE: Usti­nov DAM: Trop­i­cal CEN­TER COURT’S PEO­PLE OWNER: Kris­ten Hiller RIDER: John French

AS­SIS­TANT TRAINER: Theresa Pe­tyo-Wal­lace GROOMS: Daniel Soto, Pepe Or­tiz

BACK­GROUND: John dis­cov­ered Billy, who was 4 at the time, in a video from Eng­land. “He’s su­per scopey and brave. He could jump a moun­tain!” he says, ad­ding that the big horse could have been a jumper if he were faster.

Billy gets bored eas­ily, so his team’s con­stant chal­lenge is to keep his rou­tine in­ter­est­ing both at home and at shows. He per­forms best at new, un­fa­mil­iar venues. Now that he’s so ex­pe­ri­enced, John lim­its his sched­ule to spe­cial classes, der­bies and, oc­ca­sion­ally, the High Per­for­mance Hunters. “We can’t show him in the Reg­u­lar [Work­ing Hunter] di­vi­sion,” he says. “He would get sick of that.”

Billy is very lazy, says Theresa, es­pe­cially when it comes to do­ing flat­work. “Once he starts jump­ing, he’s great,” adds John. “But he doesn’t put as much ef­fort into his flat­work.” As a re­sult, some of his skills on the flat have taken longer to de­velop. Last spring, John sent him to trainer Susie Hutchi­son to work on his lead changes for a few weeks and help him be more con­sis­tent with them.

Af­ter the 2017 USHJA In­ter­na­tional Hunter Derby Cham­pi­onships, John sent the big horse to an equine “spa” in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia for a month to main­tain his con­di­tion and strengthen his flat­work mus­cles. Billy swam five days a week and re­turned stronger than be­fore. “He came back feel­ing re­ally good,” says Theresa.

On the ground, the big horse “used to be a lit­tle bit of a hand­ful,” says John. He was dif­fi­cult to catch in the pad­dock and some­times broke free from his han­dlers when be­ing led to and from the barn. “He’s re­ally smart and knows when he can take ad­van­tage of some­body.” Since mov­ing to a new fa­cil­ity in 2016, Billy’s be­hav­ior has im­proved dra­mat­i­cally. Theresa thinks this may be be­cause his box stall is at­tached to a 12-foot-by-24-foot run, giv­ing Billy 24/7 ac­cess to the out­doors. “He spends most of his time out­side,” she says.

While John will con­tinue to cam­paign Billy this year in the High Per­for­mance and Derby ring, Kris­ten plans to ride him in a few shows as an Ama­teur as well.

DAILY ROU­TINE: Main­tain­ing Billy’s fit­ness with­out damp­en­ing his en­thu­si­asm for work is John’s pri­mary goal. He ro­tates through the fa­cil­ity’s mul­ti­ple are­nas fre­quently, but tries to keep the geld­ing out of the ring as much as pos­si­ble. He rides him on trails and prac­tices flat­work on the farm’s hilly perime­ter track, which is great for strength­en­ing his hindquar­ters. Billy also goes on the hot walker for about 45

min­utes a day. “It’s very im­por­tant that he keeps mov­ing,” says Theresa.

He is turned out in a large, ir­ri­gated pad­dock ev­ery day. How­ever, be­cause he gets fat eas­ily, his turnout time has to be lim­ited to about two hours.

Around the barn, Billy is “kind of a ham,” says Theresa. “He loves treats. In his stall, he’s very quiet, but he’s al­ways pay­ing at­ten­tion. You can tell he’s al­ways think­ing.” Pepe says that Billy can be a lit­tle grumpy in the groom­ing stall some­times and is picky about what tools are used on him. “He likes be­ing gen­tly groomed with a cur­rycomb,” he says.

Be­fore Billy’s rides—and some­times af­ter­ward, too—Pepe puts a BE­MER elec­tro­mag­netic blan­ket on him. “It loosens up his back and sacrum,” says Theresa. They also rou­tinely stand him on a vi­brat­ing Ther­aPlate. Af­ter jump schools, Pepe ices and wraps Billy’s legs. Oth­er­wise, he usu­ally leaves his legs bare.

A few days a week, Billy’s team uses car­rots to en­cour­age him to stretch his body.

NU­TRI­TION: To keep this easy keeper’s weight un­der con­trol, Theresa feeds him just a pound of low-starch grain twice daily, mixed in with his thy­roid med­i­ca­tion, vi­ta­min E and Red Cell vi­ta­min and min­eral sup­ple­ment, which she says seems to keep his en­ergy lev­els up. She soaks his or­chard-grass hay to lower its su­gar and starch con­tent, then feeds him just a flake and a half morn­ing and night, plus an­other flake for lunch.

Early in Billy’s ca­reer, he suf­fered from stom­achaches. “He’s so laid-back, you wouldn’t think he’d have such a sen­si­tive stom­ach, but he does,” says John. The low-starch diet has made a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence, along with Gas­troGard, which he re­ceives dur­ing com­pe­ti­tions start­ing about five days be­fore he trav­els.

OTHER CARE: Billy is shod ev­ery five weeks with nor­mal shoes. He re­ceives Ad­e­quan and Leg­end monthly to main­tain his joint health. Daniel poul­tices his legs af­ter big classes. Oth­er­wise, his care has been rel­a­tively un­com­pli­cated to date.

The one treat­ment Billy can­not abide is acupunc­ture. “He hates nee­dles!” says John.

John French dis­cov­ered Cen­ter Court as a 4-year-old in a video from Eng­land. The big horse im­pressed him with his scope and brav­ery.

John and Cen­ter Court fin­ished sec­ond in the $50,000 USHJA In­ter­na­tional Hunter Derby at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Ther­mal, Cal­i­for­nia, last February.

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