A professional therapist well used to grasping unspoken emotions, Kelsey Devoille sensed nothing but heart and desire as she closed her hands around the reins connecting her to Helium Risin’.
Heading to the start box of a cross-country event, her friend’s off-track Thoroughbred left no doubt that he was a horse who had found his calling.
“When he figures out that it’s cross-country day and we start to walk to the box, it’s a different ballgame,” Devoille says. “Coming out of the box, I never, ever, ever wonder whether he will purposely try to miss a jump or a line. There’s been a number of times when I’ve presented him to the fence not as I’ve planned, and he’s given it his all” and saved the effort.
Devoille has ridden Helium for her friend Maris Burns since 2010, after the ex-racehorse, formerly known by his Jockey Club moniker Begone JoJo, had been retrained and started as a cross-country mount.
Helium’s partnership with Devoille began as they both returned from a temporarily break from horse sport. The bold racehorse was rehabbing a high suspensory injury when Devoille, who’d taken a break from riding to study for her masters, decided to give him a try.
Show name: Helium Risin’
Barn name: JoJo
Sire: Demons Begone
Dam: Queen Patsie
Foal date: April 17, 1998Devoille had long heard from her friend what a great horse Helium was, and so when they decided that Helium should get back to work, he was turned over to Devoille while Maris concentrated on riding other horses in her stable.
“We both knew Helium would need a job, and I decided to take a ride on him,” she says.
And what a breakthrough experience she had!
Although the A Rated Pony Clubber had ridden several horses in her day, including ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds, none possessed the heart and willingness that Helium had for his work.
“I’d never ridden a horse who loved their job,” she says. “In the past, the horses I’d ridden were the type who, if I made an error, we weren’t going. If I wasn’t 100 percent spot on, they weren’t playing.”
While Helium doesn’t have the friendliest demeanor around the barn – he’s a far cry from a cuddly guy – when he’s tacked up and pointed at a jump, he is the best horse partner she has had, she adds.
“Through school, I was teaching almost full time and I was in classes, and interning. I was really busy, and the time I had with him was the only time I had that was just for me,” she says. “Even though I let him sit unridden for a couple days at a time, he never held it against me. We always had a fun ride, and he was always willing to take up the slack when he needed to.”
A few week’s ago, Devoille and Helium won the OTTB High Point Award at the Spring Event at Woodside in California. Presented with a $1,000 check from RanJan Racing and CANTER California, and posing for photos, their moment in the sun was a bright beginning for what Devoille hopes will be a fulfilling year competing.
They are in training for a one-star event in Montana this July, and will take on whatever challenges come their way with a joy known to people and animals who are in the right job.
“One of the best parts about riding Jo is how much he loves the job,’ she says. “Walking back from the cross-country course, after our ride, I’m always certain he had just as much fun as I did.”