It was happenstance that led Rolex competitor Rachel Jurgens to her four-star mount, Ziggy’s Berry Boy.
“I had moved from Oregon to North Carolina to train with Jimmy Wofford and during our ride out there, my little mare broke her coffin bone,” says Jurgens during a telephone interview en route to the Rolex Kentucky Three Day. “Jimmy suggested I go gallop horses on the Middleburg Training Track since I didn’t have a horse, and I met Michelle Truffant, who had been Ziggy’s jockey, and took him in. She let me use Ziggy so I could continue my lessons with Jimmy.”
The bay with white star was as green as they come, and knew nothing. But when pointed at a jump, his inner genius came out. “He wanted to jump everything, but he didn’t want to jump crazy or stupid, the way some horses can,” Jurgens says. “Every time I sat on him I wanted to sit on him again.”
The natural chemistry under saddle inspired her to take a chance on the ex-racehorse who retired from racing after only two starts. She agreed to take the handsome gelding on loan from Truffant for six months, and then decide.
Ziggy’s Berry Boy
Sire: Ziggy’s Blush
Dam: Berry Blush, by Foolish Pleasure
Foal date: April 21, 1996“I said I’d either sell him or maybe I’d just buy him,” she says. “Somehow I couldn’t quite sell him though, and I fell in love with him.”
Far from easy, Ziggy was pretty hard to handle on the ground. He squirmed, pushed her around, and was such a handful that he went a year wearing a halter and bridle simultaneously.
“He was so hot and nervous on the ground, but as soon as I got on his back, he was great,” Jurgens says. “He’s much better now, at 18, but at shows he can still be a little hot.”
Now his fire is reserved for the Rolex Three Day, where he shines on cross-country with excellent competitive times and clean jumps, she says. Dressage presents the biggest challenge, while show jumping is good, but where the team occasionally knocks down a rail. “Those are my rails,” she says, quick to take responsibility.
The pair competed last year at Rolex but was eliminated at Jump 7 after she fell. “It was great to go and get my feet wet, quite literally,” she says, chuckling.
Going into this year’s competition, Jurgens admits she isn’t a highly competitive rider, but that she is looking forward to the challenge.
“Our biggest challenge is always the dressage. He’s hot, but he’s a nice mover and he’s a nice horse on the flat, but sometimes he gets tense, so the work we’ve done doesn’t necessarily show. Cross-country is definitely his best phase.”
As she completed the final few hours of the drive from North Carolina to Kentucky on Tuesday, the equestrian had to marvel at the twists an turns her life has taken.
She graduated college with a degree in psychology, now tucked away somewhere in her house, and then proceeded to create her own coffee shop business. But the Thoroughbreds, they have been consistent throughout.
“My first horse when I was 3 was a Thoroughbred off the track,” she says. “And I have two other OTTBs I’m bringing along. I love the breed.”
Off Track Thoroughbreds wishes all the best to Ziggy and Rachel Jurgens this weekend at Rolex!