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Test Ride a Bittersweet Finale for “Reggie” and Groom Murray

by Glenye Oakford, US Equestrian Communications Department | Apr 26, 2017, 12:25 PM EST

Reggie and Kathleen Murray (center) were joined by Buck Davidson (left) and Cassandra and Carl Segal when they evented at training level this winter in Florida. (Photo Courtesy Kathleen Blauth Murray)

Thursday will mark the end of an era for Kathleen Blauth Murray at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover. Murray, eventing athlete and Buck Davidson’s longtime groom, will perform the dressage test ride aboard Carl and Cassandra Segal’s Ballynoe Castle R.M., affectionately nicknamed “Reggie.” Update: Watch Ballynoe Castle R.M.'s test ride here.

The test ride is technically significant. It’s performed in front of the Rolex Kentucky’s panel of three dressage judges, who then compare how they scored the ride—a process designed to help the three achieve uniformity in their marks for the competition. For Murray, the significance is more poignant: Rolex Kentucky will be Reggie’s last public appearance before the 17-year-old Irish Thoroughbred retires to his owners’ property in New Jersey.

As Reggie’s groom, Murray has been the horse’s constant companion for a decade, during which time he became one of the sport’s most popular and well-traveled stars.

Reggie’s many accomplishments include six CCI4* completions, including three Rolex Kentucky events. In 2013, his fourth-place finish with Davidson as the top U.S. pair earned them the Rolex/USEF CCI4* Eventing National Championship and the United States Equestrian Team Foundation’s Pinnacle Cup for Davidson as the event’s highest-ranked American rider. The next year, they finished third, their best overall Rolex Kentucky finish, behind Great Britain’s William Fox-Pitt on Bay My Hero and U.S. rider Lauren Kieffer on Veronica.

Reggie also competed overseas, from Canada to England to France to Hong Kong. He represented the U.S. at two Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™, in Kentucky in 2010 and in Normandy, France, in 2014. At home in the States, he racked up numerous top-three finishes and landed his first CCI victory in 2015 when he won the Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event’s CCI3* division.

Kathleen Murray got some words of encouragement from Buck Davidson before taking to the cross-country course on Reggie. (Photo Courtesy Kathleen Blauth Murray)

He’ll retire as the U.S. Eventing Association’s all-time leading points-earner.

“Kathleen is part of Reggie,” said Carl Segal. “She loves Reggie like a child. She’s an enormous support and an enormous part of the success, for Reggie and all of Buck’s horses. But she always had a special thing with Reggie. They’re very close, and it’s great to be able to have her get credit at this point, because the grooms are behind the scenes and don’t really get enough credit. The test ride was Buck’s idea, and I think it was a great idea.”

Murray, who lives in Ocala, Fla., describes Reggie as the consummate professional, a trait she says he’s always had.

“He’s actually a very easy horse to be around,” she explained. “He’s not super-quirky or anything like that; he’s pretty laid back. It’s amazing how when he goes to the events he knows the job so well. He’ll be like a pony walking around the show grounds, and then as soon as he gets tacked up and into that ring, he knows what he’s doing.

“Some event horses can be a little wild, but he’s not too difficult. He’s like a professional athlete, like a pro baseball or football player. He just knows his job so well.”

Reggie’s job has involved a lot of international travel, which Murray counts among her favorite memories.

“We got to see different places together, and I was always with Reggie,” Murray said of their journeys, pointing to a trip to Hong Kong for the 2007 test event in advance of the 2008 Olympic Games as a particular highlight.

“He was only a seven-year-old for the test event,” Murray said. “That was our first big away thing that we went to, and it was quite far to go! We flew to England and then we flew to Hong Kong—the whole process was pretty neat. And he dealt with everything just great.

“At that event, he would look around and was like, ‘This is all new!’ But by the last time he went to Kentucky a couple of years ago, he was so used to it all, he just walked off the trailer like, ‘I’ve done this before.’ I would say that he’s gotten even more chill over time. A big atmosphere doesn’t really faze him. “

Reggie escorted Kathleen Murray (née Blauth) down the aisle at her 2014 wedding to Daniel Murray. (Photo Courtesy Kathleen Blauth Murray

Reggie even handled a walk down the aisle at Murray’s 2014 wedding with aplomb.

“It was right in the middle of competition season, too,” Murray said. “But Buck was like, ‘Do you want me to do anything for your wedding?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I really want Reggie there.’ He said, ‘Okay,’ and I thought he was just saying that. But then the day got closer, and he said, ‘So what do we have to do to get Reggie there?’

“I thought it would be super-cool if I could just ride down the aisle on him, and I did exactly that. He was perfect. He had on a regular saddle, not a sidesaddle or anything. We actually put on one of Buck’s first Amerigo cross-country saddles that was Reggie’s saddle for many, many years until it got too old.”

Murray took Reggie’s reins again over the winter after the Segals and Davidson offered her the ride at the Rocking Horse Winter I and II Horse Trials and the Ocala Winter II Horse Trials. Competing at training level, Reggie and Murray finished fifth at Rocking Horse Winter I, then came back to win the division at Ocala Winter II. They closed out Reggie’s competitive career with a second at Rocking Horse Winter II on February 19.

“This winter he’s basically been like mine, to ride and do whatever I want with, and it’s been amazing,” Murray said. “Reggie’s the highest point-earning horse in eventing right now, and Buck wanted his last couple of points to be with me on him, which I thought was super. It’s been a blast. I’ve said I can retire from eventing now because there’s never going to be another horse that’s going to be so much fun to ride.

“He was just awesome. He plods around on the show grounds, and then he gets in that ring and he knows exactly what he’s doing. And he’s so much fun to jump. Even though I’ve never really ridden him this much before, just being with him and Buck—I think I’ve been to almost every event they’ve done—I feel like I know Reggie so well, and it almost transfers a little bit to me riding him.”

Now his dressage test ride on Thursday will bring Reggie back to the scene of some of his best performances.

“At the end of last season, Buck called me in and said, ‘I spoke to the Segals about it and they’re fine with it, and would you want to do this?’” Murray said of the test ride. “I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a lot! But of course I want to do it!’ I figured I might as well give it a shot.”

As part of their preparation, Murray and Reggie did the dressage test rides for the CCI1* and CCI2* earlier this month at the Ocala International Three-Day Festival of Eventing in Florida.

“I’m getting more nervous by the day!” Murray said of the Rolex Kentucky test ride. “But I think it will be good. I think once we get in that ring, it will be different from anything I’ve ever ridden, but it will be a lot of fun. It’s one of those things, though, that’s such a bittersweet moment, because I am just not ready for it to end.

“I’ve thought about it a lot. I can’t believe this whole winter has gone this fast, and now it’s here. Ready or not, here we go!”

After Reggie’s retirement to New Jersey, “he’ll be a snowbird,” said Murray. “He’ll be traveling back to Florida for the winter.” That means Murray will still get to keep an eye on him in the Sunshine State.

But life will be different without the horse Murray calls “the boss of the barn” in his usual stall every day.

“He has the middle stall, right by the tack room, and all the other horses are on either side of him,” Murray said. “He just hangs out, always has his head out the door, watching everything. He’s the king of the barn, and I’m not sure what what’s going to happen when he’s not in the barn. It’s definitely going to be different.”

 

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