Erica Gaertner had 60 seconds to make her gamble pay off.
Swinging lightly into the saddle of her difficult but brilliant T-bred Fly, she pointed him at the field of jumps and galloped like crazy toward the choice she had made.
“Each of the 10 fences was assigned a point value. I walked the course twice first, and picked out a course of 11 or 12 jumps,” she says, noting that competitors were allowed to jump fences twice, if they chose.
It was a gamble. But Gaertner and Fly (JC name: Voler Bar Nuit) were victorious in the Gambler’s Choice event at the Totally Thoroughbred Show at Pimlico, earning the fastest time on slippery footing, not once losing their focus or their drive to succeed.
Voler Bar Nuit
Barn name: Fly
Sire: Lord Concorde
Dam: Don’t Ask
Foal date: May 22, 2001“He’s a brilliant jumper. He slipped a couple of times, but he’s very athletic and quickly got his feet back under him,” Gaertner says. “My biggest thing was to stay out of his way and not mess him up!”
Gaertner rides Fly with surgical precision.
Though she is well on her way to a career in medicine, having just completed her boards and two years of medical school in Grenada, it is in the saddle riding a difficult horse over jumps where Gaertner returns to her first love.
In her earlier years, the equestrian worked for steeplechase trainer and Hunt Cup Winner Billy Meister, where she had her hands on Fly on a regular basis. “When Fly was younger they tried to sell him as a show horse, but it didn’t work out,” she says. So Fly went into race training instead, and last year even finished second at a race at the Grand National.
But racing wasn’t in the cards for Fly. And he left his career, as Gaertner returned to the US to take up a residency in a New Jersey hospital. They were reunited in the spring, and now he is destined to be her jumping partner for the summer.
The solidly built 16.1-hand chestnut with big shoulders is heading for a few Jumpers later this year, including a mini prix in Pennsylvania and Culpepper at the end of August.
Then Gaertner will hand up her tack for a while, and start racing against the clock in a medical hospital. Fly’s competitive future is not completely known, but his owner Jean Class is well known as one of those special owners who keeps her horses for life, says Gaertner.
“Jean’s a very special, special person and Fly is the most special horse I’ve ever gotten to ride,” Gaertner says. ♥