Riding Double: Will Faudree’s Sister Continues to InspireThe Pilot, Southern Pines, North Carolina
By Stephanie Diaz - Sunday, August 22, 2010
It may be lonely at the top, but any upper-level event rider will admit they had company on their ascent to the sport’s pinnacle.
Will Faudree will shout it.
At 28, Faudree is already a veteran of two U.S. eventing squads (with his longtime partner Antigua, better known as “Brad”) and is poised to be named to another with Pawlow, an 11-year-old Irish thoroughbred owned by Jennifer Mosing of Youngsville, La.
A stellar effort from Pawlow in the advanced division at the American Eventing Championships, which run from Sep. 9-12 at Chattahoochee Hills in Fairburn, Ga., could send Faudree to his second World Equestrian Games.
The AECs will serve as the final U.S. team selection for the Games, which open Sept. 25 and continue through Oct. 10 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
Faudree, a native of Midland, Texas, whose Gavilan Farms sits on 45 acres in Hoffman, also plans to ride Andromaque, a 9-year-old Irish thoroughbred mare owned by Mosing, in advanced at the AECs.
Earlier this month, “Missie” finished second in her first advanced outing with Faudree at the Millbrook Horse Trials, and will try to secure her AEC qualifications next week in the CIC* division at the Richland Park Horse Trials.
Pawlow will also make his final start before the AECs in the Richland CIC*.
But make no mistake. Brad, now 21 and retired from competition, is still J.R. Ewing at this native Texan’s Southfork. The Australian thoroughbred gelding, who won a team gold with Faudree at the 2003 Pan Am Games and was a traveling reserve on both the 2000 and 2004 Olympic teams, has taken part in bareback puissance exhibitions since his retirement in 2008, but his chief duty at Gavilan Farm is to impart wisdom (and good manners) to younger horses.
Since moving up to advanced in early 2009, Pawlow (pronounced “Paul-oh”) has done little to suggest he wouldn’t be a valuable player on any team. The gelding began the season with an intermediate win at the Rocking Horse Winter Horse Trials, and a month later, he won an advanced division at the Southern Pines Horse Trials.
In April, he finished 15th of 53 starters at the Rolex Three-Day Event, his first four-star competition.
Faudree has done just enough with Pawlow (barn name: “Ernie”) since Rolex to keep him fit and happy. Faudree bought Ernie from California event rider Robyn Fisher in 2007, and soon realized the gelding was a horse with his own agenda.
“When I got him, he was this wild, spooky, malicious horse,” said Faudree. “He was very quirky. He had no trust in anybody. Now, he has total trust in us. He’s a total goofball but still extremely quirky. You don’t turn on clippers next to him. You don’t pull his feet out in front of him. That’s a pact I have with that horse. I’m not going to try to change him.”
Faudree laughed. “I meet him on the 50-yard line,” he said.
If Faudree could change anything, it might be the entire year of 2008.
The year began with Ernie still recovering from a Dec. 2007 colic surgery. In February of that year, his grandmother, Harriet Dublin, the anchor of his support system, died from cancer in his hometown of Midland.
“My family is very close, and my grandmother supported all of her grandkids in whatever they wanted to do,” Faudree said. “She was hugely influential in my career.”
In April, Faudree took Brad back to Kentucky for his third and final Rolex (the gelding finished sixth in 2006, and was in third place after cross-country in 2007, but withdrew before stadium because of a hoof injury caused by a twisted shoe).
Unfortunately, they would fare no better in 2008. Soon after arriving at the Kentucky Horse Park, Brad suffered a foot abscess, and had to withdraw from the event.
A month after Rolex came the worst news: Faudree’s sister, Kristen, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which rarely strikes young women.
“There was no explanation for it,” Faudree said. “She was young, she was fit … she didn’t smoke.”
A year older than Faudree, Kristen was an extraordinary young woman by any standard. She had spent time in Africa, where she taught HIV education to Zimbabwean families and started a reading program for children. She had returned to Texas in late 2007 to help care for her ailing grandmother, and fell ill shortly thereafter.
Despite being unable to contest Rolex, Faudree and Brad were still invited to the final selection trials for the 2008 Olympic Team, which were to take place in July at The Fork in Norwood. They participated, but Faudree was distracted by Kristen’s illness — she was undergoing radiation treatments but was given a poor prognosis — and he knew chances were slim that he and Brad would be named to the Olympic team.
“I knew I wasn’t going to the Olympics with that horse,” Faudree said. “He was almost 20; he didn’t owe me an Olympic Games. He had done his job with amazing grace, and never had a cross-country jump penalty. It was very emotional for me, because of what my sister was going through, and because I knew it was going to be my last event on that horse.”
Faudree’s partnership with Brad began in 2001. On the recommendation of his boss, three-time Australian Olympian Phillip Dutton, Faudree traveled to Australia to look for an upper level horse. Driving into the farm to look at the first prospect, Faudree glimpsed a smallish, sun-bleached bay tied to a lorry.
“It was Brad,” Faudree said. “I don’t know what I was expecting, but … it was just a horse. Then I got on him, and there was this magical ‘click.’”
After the selection trials, Faudree tried to spend as much time as possible with Kristen. He was also trying to sell Ernie — as an equitation horse.
“I needed the money,” Faudree said. “I had bought the farm, and added on to the barn … I was out of money.”
By October, it became clear that Kristen had a short time to live. She chose to stop radiation treatments, telling her family: “I’m done with this. It hurts. There’s a better place for me, and I can do so much more for you guys up there.”
Faudree was with Kristen the last month of her life. She died on Nov. 22, 2008.
“To see my sister face death, head on,” Faudree said. “It really showed me the value of faith.”
Shortly after Kristen’s death, Faudree was scheduled to teach a clinic in Louisiana. “They said, “If you want to cancel, we’ll understand,” Faudree said. “But I went through with it.”
At the clinic, Faudree reconnected with Mosing, whom he had met at a previous clinic (Mosing’s daughters, Kaitlynn and Madeline, had also trained with Faudree). In early December, Mosing called Faudree.
“She said she might be interested in owning a horse,” he recalled. “I told her Pawlow was for sale, and she asked what it would cost to own an event horse. She thought about it, called back and said she wanted him. I about fell out of my chair.”
Riders often depend on sponsors like Mosing to keep them actively competing at the upper levels. But Mosing has become much more than a sponsor to Faudree.
“She’s become a great friend,” Faudree said. “More like a sister. She reminds me so much of my sister. And I know it was Kristen’s hand in all of this that made it happen.”
In addition to her interest in horses, Mosing is a breeder of champion Yorkshire Terriers. In February, she asked Faudree to show one of her terriers (Brody) in the breed group at the Westminster Kennel Club show in New York City.
“I got to Madison Square Garden at 11 that morning and showed at 2:15,” Faudree said, laughing. “It was intense. It felt like the 10-minute box at Badminton.”
They won the group.
Faudree’s focus is on Ernie now, but Brad remains his gold standard. “Karen Stives (the 1984 Olympic silver medalist) gave me the best advice,” Faudree said. “She told me, “Don’t expect your next horse to fill his shoes.” I’ve never forgotten that. And I never will. No horse ever could.”
Without Kristen, Faudree acknowledges that his future triumphs will be bittersweet.
“There are times I would give everything up to have my sister back,” he said. “Even for an hour. I’d do it in a heartbeat. “But somehow, I know she’s still a part of it.”