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Mon, 2011-03-21 13:49

The Road To Rolex: Heather Gillette

Authored By: Heather Gillette

photo (4)We event riders tend to be a superstitious bunch! So after I said i would love to write a 'Road to Rolex' blog I thought.. Hmm... Am I tempting fate? But the idea of sharing my journey to Kentucky seems like a great thing to do.

I am Heather Gillette and I am the very lucky rider of an amazing horse, Our Questionnaire. I will tell you more about Questie in a minute. My home is Califon, NJ and the farm is in Pottersville.

(Left: Heather Gillette and Our Questionnaire. Xpress Foto Photo.)

A quick history of my life as an eventer... I was hooked on eventing at a very young age, 3rd grade! I caught the bug through Pony Club and am a graduate 'A'. I competed in my first three-day event in 1987 with Argyle Socks who I bought as a two-year-old. I did Young Riders during college with him.

While putting my degree to use in the corporate world and riding for others I met Pickle Road, a misunderstood OTTB. I ditched the corporate gig, set up a barn, and started teaching and training. With Pickle I gained lots of upper level experience and was so close to getting to Rolex. As happens with horses we never got there.

In 2002 I started training horses for Kathleen and Ken McDermott at their farm in Pottersville. While competing Pickle and retraining their racehorses for eventing, Kathy became interested our wonderful sport. It is a bit addictive after all! She bought a few young horses for me all in an effort to help me reach my goal of riding at Rolex with the best in the world.

When injury and illness prevented them from going on, we decided in 2009 to pursue getting a going upper level horse. Very exciting for me! We tried a few Intermediate horses, but to no avail. My friend Joanne Bridgman in New Zealand had sent a video of Our Questionnaire , aka Questie, to a neighbor in Tallahassee. She asked if I would hold on to it for her and when I got it I popped it in my laptop. I called Kathy and said I had found our horse. He was a bit older than we were thinking and was recovering from dandelion poisoning, but was competing and jumping. We were taking a bit of a risk as I was not able to go and try him in New Zealand. So we took a leap of faith, trusted Joanne and relied on his past record. I couldn't wait to meet my new partner when I picked him up at Newark Airport one week (5)

Questie is as smart a horse as I have ever known. He is clever, honest, genuine, with just a touch of cheekiness! Other than running and jumping his favorite thing to do is flying changes! He adds them into his tests at every opportunity . . . we are working on that. We spent our first six months on a steep learning curve as I needed to get my qualifications all in order after time off from the upper levels. We did a Preliminary, a few Intermediates, then ran Advanced and did a few CIC3*s. We finished the 2009 season with a ninth at the CCI2* at Poplar Place. 2010 started at full speed.  Highlights of the Spring season included a second at Chattahoochee Hills and a tenth at the Jersey Fresh CCI3*.

The year screeched to a halt with an ankle injury. So we rested, treated, and rehabbed for the rest of the year. Lots of dressage practice (and doing changes only when asked) until December. Poor Questie thought he had a career change. Needless to say, his first jump school was rather exciting. If he had hands he would have been clapping like a madman. A few Intermediates in February with conservative runs on cross-country and the ankle was staying together. We had a good checkup before Red Hills and ran in the 3*. We did a reasonable dressage test, could have been much better, but not bad. We were a bit rusty to the bigger jumps at first but we were cruising by the end. He jogged well Sunday morning and show jumped well. We finished down the order, but sound, happy and with the rust knocked off. A good check up this week and it is full steam ahead.

I have to say that sending in my Rolex entry after all of these years was exciting. I can't imagine how thrilling it will be to actually be there. Hopefully all of the hard work and decades of "character building" experience will pay off. There is lots of work to be done between then and now. I will attentively be watching over my Questie 's every move and keeping my eye on the ball. Lexington here we come!

Check back soon for the next entry in Heather’s Road To Rolex!


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