Sportswriter was well known and several of the local pros had tried to buy Bully before he was sent to the thoroughbred sale at Del Mar. I know one fellow whose offer of $3000 was turned down by Mr. and Mrs. Gonzalas as they felt Bully would bring a good price at the select sale. I don't know what their reserve on the horse was, but whatever it was it wasn't met and he returned to the farm shortly before I contacted Ted Schaps about finding a horse to replace a colt I had boarded at Ted's farm until he had died of a twisted intestine. The colt that had died had been out of a mare that Barbara Worth had made into a most successful jumper. (In case it does not dawn on the reader, I was looking for an open jumper prospect - dressage was pretty far from my mind.)
Ted had two horses for me to look at on my trip to Grass Valley. It was 2 miserable rainy day in the middle of a rainy week. None of the horses had been out for exercise for much too long and were jumpy and difficult to evaluate. I decided on Bully because of his Sportswriter breeding, his good size (he was 16.2 hh as a two-year-oid and never grew after that) and because he did not have a great deal of white on his legs as did the mare who was the other most interesting prospect. I had a conformation horse with four white socks and was thoroughly tired of the hassle of washing for the conformation classes.
Bully was a stallion when I looked at him and had a scar on one nostril which had been sewn up narrowing the passage considerably. (This was most likely one of the reasons that he did not meet his price at the Del Mar Sales - many people have speculated that he would not be able to extend the nostril fully under severe stress as he would need to if raced - though the defect has never bothered him in the work that he has done for me.) I bought him without seeing him move, paid for him and left him to be gelded.
He got his name about 3 weeks later when Ted called me to let me know that several pros who had their eye on the colt had asked him what I had had to pay to get him from the farm. He had told them I paid $3000.00 for the horse (a very good price in those days) when in fact $1000.00 had closed the deal. I felt that such an increase in the worth of the horse in such a short time was definitely a Bull Market.
From the beginning, Bully was a powerful mover, co-operative, forward and full of energy. He was also unbalanced, on the forehand, and supersensitive. I bought him in the spring of his two-year old year. I was pregnant and did very little with him other than teach him to lift his feet to be cleaned and to lunge. He lived for the most part in a pasture in front of the house in Woodside which had a small shelter from the rain and a slope that made high speed gallops virtually impossible. One winter day Bully came running to the pasture fence by the driveway, put on the brakes and slid right through the fence as if it was made of matchsticks, ending up quite nonplussed in the middle of the driveway.
His companion at this time was an aggressive gelding that I showed as a conformation hunter. Duke, in asserting himself to this youngster, kicked him in the eye leaving a cut which refused to heal until we treated it with an extremely caustic medication which killed some of the surface tissue and formed a scar to protect the raw tissues underneath. It was a painful treatment and Bully decided that he would not lead forward to the fence and stand for his medication. He could be very persistent when his mind is made up to resist and I had to back him around the entire pasture two times before he decided that forward was possible.
Once he is convinced he is cooperative. Bully is also a fast learner which is great if you win your case and a disaster if things get out of hand. Once during the time I was showing him at Second Level, I tied him to a trailer at Pebble Beach while I showed some horses over fences in the morning of a small schooling show combining dressage and jumping.
He decided for the first time (he had been in this situation before) that he could not stand for his buddies to leave him and began yelling and screaming. He kept this up all morning (I had not learned at this point to never let him practice undesirable behavior even for a minute!) and by the time his test was called he was no more than a mouth attached to legs. What's more, he had so closely associated screaming with a panicky being-left feeling that even to this day if he starts calling he becomes a mental basket case. I cannot go to a show with two horses and ride the other away from Bully without another person there to "whip his lips" so-to- speak should he start to call. For instance, the summer on the trip to Lausanne (the 1982 World Dressage Championships) Bully decided he could not live without Woodimix. I thank goodness Kim was wonderfully understanding and allowed Woody to babysit my 17 year old juvenile, though we looked like the Bobbsy Twins going everywhere on the same schedule. Any time Woody got out of his sight he would get tense and try to call. He knows that he isn't allowed to neigh and the strange squeaks and frenzied behavior he substitutes are preferable to calling only because they are controllable. If we do not control him in this kind of situation his behavior is affected for several weeks. Needless to say, I did not want to come down center line at Lausanne and have Bully yell at the judge to start the test.
In general, however, Bully has been an easy horse. He is generous with his energy and really wonderful to sit upon. Even when tense he is "connected" and feels strong. He was consistently successful at the lower levels, winning the AHSA Championship at Third Level and the AHSA Regional Championship at Fourth as well as the CDS Horse of the Year at Fourth Level.
He progressed rather steadily to St. George winning most of his classes and had a spectacular piaffe and passage by 1975, but was consistently inconsistent with his tempi changes. I took him East to work with Bengt Ljungquist in the Spring of 1975 and stayed until the Fall of 1976. During that time the horse traveled a great deal and his personality became much less independent as he came to see my daughter, Anne, and myself as the only constants in his nomadic life. He won some good classes and our constant coaching from Bengt and later from Gunnar Oestegaard helped to move him to the Grand Prix Level.
Just before we were to return to the West Coast he contracted Rhino. He was so sick that he couldn't reach grass three feet high with his practically paralyzed back and neck. I turned him and his stablemate, Maxel, out together to graze during his recovery in an unfenced area by the barn. Maxel would graze for 20 minuutes and then try to get Bully to join him in a run around the field. Both horses knew that this behavior was not allowed, but Maxel always liked to push this kind of disobedience to the limit and was quite often successful in persuading Bully to follow suit. On this particular occasion Bully wanted no part of the game. As Maxel galloped around him trying to herd him into flight Bully picked up a trot and headed resolutely for the barn, turned down the aisle and into his stall.
Bully was sick for two months. I delayed my trip to the West for several weeks to give him time to build up strength for the journey. He was still not himself when we pulled out of the Devon Showgrounds to start home and the trip was hard on him. Maxel, who felt just wonderful, spent the mornings bucking for exercise. The trailer literally bounced its way West. Bully got a swelling on the front of his hind leg that resembled a bow in the wrong direction as he braced to avoid the antics. He was exhausted when we reached California but the lack of bugs and humidity, good alfalfa and rest soon turned him around.
Bully has made two subsequent trips East. He flew to New Jersey for the trials in 1978 when he was chosen to be a member of the World Championship Team for Goodwood and he went again in 1980 to qualify for the Olympic Team - this last time by trailer. He isn't a particularly good traveler and does quite poorly when good alfalfa isn't available. Humidity and the bugs in New Jersey seem to bother him more than they do most horses; Though each time he goes to Gladstone he seems to get a little tougher and enjoy it more. The first time he was at Gladstone for any time he disliked the barn and was depressed during the whole stay. During the 1980 trip he won the Grand Prix at York and the Kur at Knoll Farm and Dressage at Devon, and handled the weather and traveling well.
This summer when he again was a member of the World Championship Team, I arranged to have him shipped directly to Lausanne rather than go through Gladstone. Kim Beardsley (von Hoppfgarten) and Woodimix elected to do the same. It was a much easier trip and the horses had a week and a half to recover in Switzerland which worked out very well. With the exception of becoming rather attached to Woody, Bully handled this trip better than any of the previous ones. My daughter, Anne, went as groom - and she knows his idiosycracies. It seemed to make him quite secure to know his family was traveling with him. Taking Bully to Europe has always been more fantasy than reality for me and having Anne along this time only added to that feeling. It was great to be going to Germany and Switzerland with my daughter, but to get out of my seat and walk to the back of the plane to check on my horse as well - for a "family" as close as we are - was like a super dream.
Bully is now the old man of the farm. He is ridden or lunged every other day and is teaching some of my higher level students the meaning of a half halt going through, a piaffe or half pass - when he isn't teaching me more about control from behind or balance or . . . He knows he has done his work and has done it well and that now he doesn't have to carry the competition end of the stick. He was very jealous of Pilgrim when the stallion moved in, but now he sees that Pilgrim has to work and carry the competition load while he has earned the right to a bit of rest and relaxation. Bully is delighted as long as he gets his share of attention. He is my only horse who is trustworthy enough to go about the farm and graze while dragging a rope - so he gets that special privilege, too.
Anne has been riding him a bit and he does his best piaffes for her.
Some of the things he does well he is getting better at doing even at the
advanced age of 18. As long as he can enjoy getting about and working he
will do so for I feel that physical exercise keeps all of us in better
shape and better able to enjoy life more fully. With any luck Bully should
have many years left to enjoy his more relaxed schedule with perhaps just
a show or exhibition thrown in now and then for spice - or to teach a good
student how to handle an upper level test. Not bad for an old thoroughbred
who was bred to be a race horse and bought to be an open jumper.
(Bully continued his schoolmaster duties with several of our barn managers
over subsequent years. He enjoyed his life until
a severe torsion colic required his euthanization at the advanced age of 27. He is missed for his generous personality, flamboyant passage, and kind nature -- he embodied the heart, intelligence and athleticism of the American Thoroughbred and captured the hearts of all who knew him. We miss you Bully.)
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