With a casualness that could describe a walk in the park, Englishwoman and Thoroughbred devotee Shelagh Davidson recounts her eventing and timber-race escapades, and latest “project” horse, Nitro.
The competitive rider who trains with top-level equestrian Sally Cousins has enjoyed a long partnership with off-track Thoroughbreds so successful that two years ago she qualified to compete in the mid-Atlantic’s Morven Park three-day event. “It had been a dream of mine to participate in their long format event,” she says. And she owes it to her other off-track Thoroughbred Calvin for getting her there and carrying her through the series of tests. “We did steeplechase, dressage, roads and tracks and jumping,” she says.
Hanging in There
Barn name: Nitro
Foal date: Feb. 9, 2005 Then and now Davidson is a Thoroughbred person with a penchant for training ex-racehorses. “Thoroughbreds attracted me for their heart, their can-do attitude, and their forward (pace),” she says. “I’m a soft rider with soft hands. They’re perfect for me.”
And racehorses are the best because they tend to have good, soft mouths, good brains, and openness to learning something news, she adds.
Having worked with and owned more Thoroughbreds than she can count, Davidson recently decided to put Calvin up for sale and on May 15, she purchased Nitro from Three Plain Bays, Inc., in Maryland. The Maryland resident checked the horse trainer’s website daily in search of a new project and when she saw Nitro, named Handsome on the site, she couldn’t help but agree that the horse was a looker.
“He was a nice package,” she says. “There were three horses I was interested in and Nitro was the last one I got on. He hadn’t been ridden the whole winter. We had no problems. We vetted him; he passed; I bought him.”
In short order, Nitro has had a cross-country training lesson with Sally Cousins and has just started to jump. “He is improving so fast,” Davidson says. “All the jumps are brightly painted, but he doesn’t fuss. He trotted up to each one, popped up, and did just what I asked him to do. He was very, very good.”
Davidson is pointing toward an eventing career for Nitro and also foxhunting, which she loves. Prior to his new start, her horse was racing at Charles Town in West Virginia. In 28 starts, he took two firsts, four seconds, and five thirds, and earned a total of $37,427.
The funny thing about Nitro is that he is exceptionally laid back.
“The second time I rode him I had to pull out the whip and the spurs,” she says.
Growing up in England, Davison started riding at age 10. When she moved to the United States 30 years ago, she avidly pursued fox hunting, eventing and other equestrian disciplines. She cannot imagine life without a horse. “I would miss it very much.”
Aboard Nitro six days a week, Davidson is in her element. “I get along with Thoroughbreds,” she says. “It’s just an affinity that I have.”