“When I first saw him, I was just in awe.”
Margie Goldstein-Engle recalls of the moment she first discovered Royce, “The amount of power he had was unbelievable and how careful he was. He had a fantastic hind end. I just loved him.”
It was an unusual pick for the petite rider.
“I don’t normally like the type,” she admits. “He’s not the most modern type. He’s a little heavier bone than is ideal for someone my size. [Engle is five feet tall.] But he had so much ability, I just fell in love him.”
It would be a year before the US team veteran was able to buy the Oldenburg stallion. Ridden by Russia’s Luibov Kochetova, Royce wasn’t for sale.
“I had to wear Lubiov down,” laughs Goldstein-Engle. “She told me if I helped her sell some of her other horses, she’d give me a shot to buy him.”
In 2012, Elm Rock Partners purchased the seven-year-old stallion for Goldstein-Engle. His ownership transferred to Gladewinds Partners in 2016.
“He was little feisty when I first got him. He kind of did everything backwards. He was jumping in big classes at six before he was very broke, so it’s taken a little while and it’s been a lot of work,” she says.
“He’s always had all of the ability in the world—he’s scopey, he’s powerful, he’s careful. He’s got all the attributes that you want. I just had to work on the rideablilty.”
Some two years ago, Goldstein-Engle recruited US dressage rider Lisa Wilcox work on Royce’s flat work, fine tuning his transitions and sensitivity to the aids.
“He’s gotten better and better. I’ve been able to go down in the bits that I use. He feels like he’s following through better on top of the jump. That, coupled with the chiropractic work my husband does with him, has helped his top line so much. He’s just in a happy place right now,” she says.
The training regime work has helped increase his stamina, as well.
“The cross training is good for his muscle structure. I think it’s good for him mentally and physically. Before he would be tired at the end of the first round and now he’s not. It’s helped his fitness, it’s helped make his core stronger,” she says
Between shows and dressage training sessions (Wilcox only rides Royce when Goldstein-Engle is based in Wellington, Florida), the show jumper focuses on gymnastic work.
“It’s like football players working through the tires. They work on their control and coordination with their legs. I do a lot of raised cavaletti work and bounces. I don’t do a lot of jumping big jumps but enough to keep him focused and keep the jumps interesting for him when he’s showing,” she says.
“I only have so many jumps in him so I try to save that for the ring.”
The formula proved so successful, Wilcox is now working with a promising young horse in Goldstein-Engle’s string. Her assistant is helping some the jumper’s students, as well.
“I think it helps them to know the dressage work too,” says Goldstein-Engle. “You have to know the basics and have the in-between right, then the jumps are easy if you have the proper balance.”
As for Royce, he’s at the top of his game. The 13-year-old stallion posted a clear round in the Nations Cup on Friday at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC to help clinch the victory for Team USA and captured the $130,000 ATCO Nations Finale Grand Prix in a six-horse jump off on Sunday.
Suffice it to say: those dressage drills are paying off.