Lauren Kieffer’s return to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover is particularly nostalgic, because her mount this year—Vermiculus—is a full brother to Snooze Alarm, the horse that brought Kieffer to her first Rolex Kentucky back in 2010.
Bred in Indiana by Lawson and Jeanne Williams, Snooze and Vermiculus are Anglo-Arabians, by the Arabian stallion Serazim and out of the Thoroughbred mare Wake Me Gently. The Anglo-Arabian breed’s combination of Arabian and Thoroughbred bloodlines is ideal for the sport of three-day eventing, says Kieffer.
“They really suit the sport,” she said. “You need horses that can run all day and still be sharp the next day. They’ve got the quickness and the stamina, and they’re careful horses. Every one I’ve had has been really brave, too. And they’re typically good movers. So it’s a great thing to have in a horse; it’s always a bonus if they have a bit of Arab blood in them. I’ve had several Anglo-Arabs through the years, and I’ve never had one I didn’t like or didn’t think a lot of.
“I’ve never had one be really hot. Bug’s pretty cheeky, but he’s not a hot horse at all, and neither was Snooze. The biggest difficulty with them is they’re so smart! You have to be very conscientious when you’re producing them, because they’re not going to just do something because you told them to do it. They need to know the reason, and it has to have a purpose for them.”
Kieffer’s parents bought Snooze Alarm for her when she was 13 and he was just four. The pair grew up together, competing from the beginner novice level all the way to North America’s only four-star event, where they finished 29th. Along the way, Snooze also picked up the Arabian Horse Association’s Ambassador Award in 2007, the same year Vermiculus was foaled.
“It was a little bit of a fairytale thing,” Kieffer said of her first Rolex Kentucky with Snooze Alarm, “because it’s very rare that your first horse does that. He’s very special.”
Kieffer went on to win the 2014 and 2016 Rolex/USEF CCI4* National Championships after finishing second overall at Rolex Kentucky with the Dutch warmblood Veronica. Now she’s looking forward to debuting Vermiculus, now owned by Jacqueline Mars, at the four-star level.
“I bought Vermiculus—we call him ’Bug’—when he was a three-year-old,” said Kieffer. “He was actually pretty feral! I picked him up, took him to Florida, and turned him out in a field with Snooze. I couldn’t catch him for three months! But now he’s like a puppy dog, and he’s everybody’s favorite horse in the barn because he’s such a good little guy to be around.
“It’s nostalgic, and there’s a special place in your heart for a horse you’ve had from the beginning,” she added. “Luckily, a few years later, Ms. Mars purchased him. With all her homebreds and young horses, she gets that it’s a different thing when you’ve had them from the beginning, and also that connection of him being Snooze’s brother. And, luckily, she’s very patient with him, because he was quite the cheeky little thing growing up. He was always good jumping and everything else, but he’s so cheeky! He’s more like a naughty pony than a horse.
“You never know if a horse is a four-star horse until they jump around a four-star, but he’s done lots of three-stars, and he’s as prepared as he’s going to be, so here we go!”
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