In this behind-the-scenes series from Heritage Farm, we’re introducing you to the program’s horses and riders in a whole new way. Get to know our group beyond what you’ve seen ringside, accolades and all:
Laena Romond and Catherine Cowie's Traveller in the 2021 WCHR Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular. Photo by KIND Media
Rider(s): Catherine Cowie, Laena Romond
2021 Highlights: Won the $50,000 National Horse Show Hunter Classic; Won WCHR Amateur-Owner Hunter 3'3" Challenge at Capital Challenge; 5th, WCHR Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular (high score first round)
Catherine Cowie's Traveller has become one of the most recognized horses at Heritage Farm. The chestnut certainly boasts distinctive markings, but his jump is undoubtedly his greatest trademark.
The now-11-year-old gelding has been a mainstay at Heritage since May 2018, when Emil Spadone and Cassandra Kahle of Redfield Farm brought him to Heritage Farm in Katonah, NY for a trial. Heritage trainer Laena Romond remembers the weekend well.
"We tried him in the middle of the Old Salem horse show, which is one of our busiest, but we tried him at [our farm]," she recalled. "Andre and I zipped out of the horse show, went to Heritage and saw him for 10 minutes. We obviously liked him—he was lovely—and [Spadone] let him stay overnight for Catherine to try the next morning.
"As busy as we were, the only time we could do this trial was at 6:30 in the morning," she continued. "Catherine drove up—I think she probably left her house at 4:30 in the morning from [New York City]—to try him in a torrential downpour in the dark. It was a horse she had never ridden, and he had never been to Heritage before. And he just didn't put a foot wrong. So, that was that was the first impression."
"Travis" was a winner from the get-go, topping the 2018 Stal Hendrix Green Hunter Futurity at HITS on the Hudson with Romond. He just as quickly shined in the amateur hunter divisions with Cowie.
"We got him in May, and our first show [together] was in July," said Cowie, who works full-time at an investment and financial advising company. "He has this incredible canter that makes you feel pretty; he's like a rocking horse. He's so easy to find the jumps on. It was pretty clear from the first day we had him that it was going to be a nice partnership."
Catherine Cowie and Traveller at WEF. Photo by KIND Media.
When it came to Traveller's development, he was a quick study. With endless heart and a kind temperament, he had endless "try" in him. Early in his time with Heritage, the team worked to channel his explosive jump into a more relaxed manner.
"That's kind of what he's known for—that he's a sharp, high jumper," Romond said. "At the beginning, that was more of a challenge, and it was all about kind of relaxing him and not over-challenging him to where he was jumping too high. I would say in that respect, he still is a sharp jumper, but he's kind of learned how to jump consistently and and not over-jump. And it's turned out to be his greatest asset."
The year 2021 turned out to be his greatest season. In February, he and Romond jumped to the high score in the first round of the WCHR Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular, ultimately finishing fifth in the prestigious class. At indoors, Cowie took the reins for the win in the WCHR Amateur-Owner Hunter 3'3" Challenge at the Capital Challenge Horse Show.
He put an exclamation mark on his year at the National Horse Show, where he and Romond were champions of the Green Hunter 3'6" division before topping the $50,000 National Horse Show Hunter Classic.
"I felt very grateful that I got to show him there, because Catherine wasn't able to show herself. She showed at Capital Challenge and at Harrisburg, and she had been planning to show in Kentucky, but she had to work, so she couldn't be there during the week.
"She said, 'No, I like watching him go. Send him. Take him,'" Romond continued. "The fact that it then worked out the way that it did felt really awesome."
"I watched on the livestream, and it was so exciting. It was a nice end to his First Year [Green]," Cowie said. "He’s the most perfect horse, so it was very deserving."
Catherine Cowie and Traveller. Photo by KIND Media.
Cowie and Romond agree, Travis is undoubtedly a people's horse. He craves attention, but he's polite about it. It's not uncommon to find him ringside sharing a moment with his favorite people—Cowie and Romond.
"He is the most polite horse I have ever really known," Romond said. "He's a type of horse that when you're at the ring with him, the other riders are fond of him. He's really like a rider's horse in that sense."
"He’s very sweet. He loves human contact," Cowie said. "When you're next to him on the ground, he'll inch closer and closer and rest his head on your shoulder. He knows how special he is, and he gets a lot of attention.
Both Romond and Cowie will continue to show Travis in 2022, though Cowie will take the reins more in the coming year, with a focus on the amateur-owner hunters.
"He’s always a reliable partner. He never does anything out of character, and he always wants to do his best," Cowie. "He's there to sort of take you to the next step if you’re game to commit to it."
"The fact that he does both jobs so well, I think that speaks to his character," Romond said. "You know, he's just a good guy."
Go Beyond the Ingate with other members of Heritage Farm: