Liza Boyd is proving that buying a younger horse isn’t always the best option when it comes to finding a new mount. In fact, a bit of age is actually one of her top preferences when searching for a horse to add to her string.
As one of the country’s most successful hunter riders and trainers, Liza’s top mounts justify the saying that age is just a number. Although she’s not against purchasing a young mount, she credits the seasoned mind and experience of an older horse to get her to the winner’s circle.
To prove it? Enter: Brunello (Yep, just like the fine wine).
He was bought as a 10-year-old after competing in the jumper ring in Belgium, and went on to become the three-time winner of the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships, USEF National Horse of the Year, and a Breyer horse model.
Liza explains why she prefers a the seasoned mind of an older mount.
“Brunello didn’t win his first Derby Finals until he was 16-years-old,” explains Liza. “He got better with age, like his name, the wine. He got physically stronger and some of his weakness as a 10-year-old actually improved the more ‘hunter-fit’ he got.”
“I think that if you give them a lot of time off, they age.”
What’s the secret behind improving the longevity of her horses? Always keep them in work.
“My opinion with the older horses is you need to keep them in work,” says Liza, who keeps her horses fit through a routine of trail rides, paddock time, and treadmill sessions. “I think that if you give them a lot of time off, they age. Just like a person, you can’t just sit around—you’ve got to keep exercising and moving. I try to keep them moving a lot—maybe even more than a younger horse—it’s key.”
One of Liza’s other rides, O’Ryan, has a similar background to his stablemate Brunello. The pair dazzled under the lights and took home the top honors in the 2017 U.S. Open $50,000 Duchossois Cup at the Central Park Horse Show.
“O’Ryan is 16 years old this year, but a lot like Brunello, he doesn’t take much to get to the ring,” she says. “Obviously we all want quality. But sometimes a good brain and a strong character that has the desire to want to win. The characteristic to want to win and the good brain is so key for the longevity of the horse.”
With the combination of modern veterinary medicine and the ability to find out a horse’s past on the internet, Liza suggests that it’s not a bad decision to purchase an older horse.
“You want to do a thorough vetting and make sure there’s not a lot of wear and tear. With the older horses, it’s important to know their history and the way they were brought along. I really like the seasoned brain of an older horse,” says Liza, who knows the history and past riders of all the horses she purchases. “All the older horses I’ve bought, I really know they had good care, good riders, and good management.”
Photos Tricia Booker.