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Lisa Marie Fergusson and her ‘clown’ of a five-star horse

  • Canadian rider Lisa Marie Fergusson and her 16-year-old horse Honor Me are aiming for a seventh five-star completion together at the Mars Maryland 5 Star this week, but their partnership didn’t get off to the most auspicious start.

    Lisa explained: “My mentor when I was growing up, Therese Washtock, rode for the Canadian Olympic team. She went to look at him to buy as a four-year-old and he wasn’t going to work for her. I had his full brother, Smart Move, and she called me and said,  ‘You need to buy this horse, he will go to Kentucky’ and I was like, ‘Done.’

    “I bought him, but he flunked the vetting and went straight for surgery. He had chips in three out of four fetlocks. Then I shipped him out to where I was based in Minnesota and drove him to Wellington and rehabbed him there.

    “I think he did one show before Smart Move kicked him – he stood right behind him and bit him on the butt in the field! – and fractured his radius. So he was then in the stall for more months.”

    Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me – known as Tali – finished 19th at Kentucky Three-Day Event this spring, but their preparation for Maryland 5 Star has been interrupted and the horse has not actually run across country since Kentucky “and he doesn’t cross-country school because he’s an idiot”. The pair , who represented Canada at the 2018 World Championships, were preparing to go to this year’s championships in Pratoni, but were not selected.

    Lisa said: “So he’s just been maintaining and I was planning to run him at Plantation in September. Unfortunately, I had to showjump right after I fell off my three-star horse across country, so I did not ride him well, which is why I scratched him from cross country. So he is dying to see a cross country fence.”

    Cross-country is definitely Honor Me’s strongest phase.

    “He’ll win the dressage warm-up and then he goes in and the atmosphere just gets the better of him. But at the end of the day, he’s the only horse you want to sit on leaving the start box no matter what the weather and I’m willing to sacrifice a little bit of a dressage score to have the feeling he gives you cross-country,” said Lisa.

    “I think this course looks great – I love Ian Stark’s courses and I was so excited when he got the five-star. He makes the courses big and galloping and that suits Tali.

    “I have learned that the less I tell him what to do, the less mistakes he makes. If I just point him and tell him where to go and stay out of his way, I have the better ride. When I’m like, ‘Oh no, I have to think about the number of strides here’ I always screw it up. So he is the cross-country expert, I’m the monkey on top. I steer, he does the job.”

    Tali is “a clown” in the barn, according to Lisa.

    She said: “He’s got the stall right by the tack room so the rule is when you pass his stall, he has to get a treat. Otherwise he’ll reach out and grab your arm with his lips and be like, ‘Huh, pay the toll.’ Every once in a while, I’ll take him for a hack and he’ll literally stick his head up in the air and trot off with me like Pony Club kid.”

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