Nyls du Terroir



   When anybody meets Nyls in person, the first thing that they say is, "Wow, that horse has a serious personality". When anybody sees Nyls under saddle, they can't help but whisper, "Damn, that horse can jump!". 

    Nyls is thoroughly convinced that he is the king of horses. He has a character bigger than the state of Texas, and the athleticism to back it up. When you walk into the barn, he comes to the front of his stall, and stands on the ledge of the aisle, effectively making himself four inches taller than his already sizeable 17.1 hands. It is impossible to escape the feeling that you are walking into his barn, and common to have your attention drawn immediately to him, which is exactly what he planned.

    His impenatrable ego is not without justification. Starting his career as a four year old, Nyls has progressed through the ranks with ease and joy. He is my first true competitive partner, and we have climbed the levels together, which makes his achievements all the more impressive. Not only has he achieved great success throughout the years, but he has done so without the advantage of an experienced jockey such as Phillip Dutton or David O'Connor as his guide. Our accomplishments have been truly a feat of partnership as we learn and grow together.

    I got Nyls in the summer of 2005, before my final year of high school. He was 3, giant, and completely unruly. I was a summer working student for Stuart Black, and Nyls was for sale in the barn. He was well known for trampling humans, dogs, and other horses. He was so badly behaved both on the ground and under saddle, that riding him was literally used as punishment for not performing a job well in the barn. Nobody wanted to ride him; he was ridiculously spooky at every single little thing (including poles, different patches of ground, and bugs), and he had a nasty habit of pinning his nose to his chest and combining bucking, bolting, and quick sideways spooking. He was virtually unsaleable. Needless to say, I was deemed bananas when I expressed interest in him. 

     I have a longstanding affinity for horses that are largely considered lost cause rogues. I think that the feeling of true connection and success with an animal that was previously written off by others makes the accomplishment all the much sweeter. Nyls was my potential masterpiece, and I have spent the past five years pouring my heart and soul into him, and he has done the same for me.             The characteristic jump...Red Hills 2013


       I took him home in the fall of 2005, and decided that in order for him to remember how to be a horse instead of a ruffian, he was not going to see an arena for a long, long time. I am fortunate enough to have access to over 2,000 acres of land in conservation easement, which is maintained by my good friend and sponsor, John Birdsall. An avid foxhunter, Mr. Birdsall makes sure that all of his property is horse friendly with coops and gates and trails. Pure heaven for an eventer! Nyls and I explored the lands for a year, learning the value of bravery, balance, and surefootedness. 

A well-deserved pat after dressage, fall of 2006.

   We began competing in the summer of 2006, at the innaugural Maryland Horse Trials, where we finished our very first event at Training level in 2nd place. We did one more Training, and moved up to Prelim. In the spring of 2007, we contested our very first CCI*, which was very exciting to me. Previous to Nyls, I had never competed at the Preliminary level, and really hadn't dreamed of owning a horse that could compete with the professionals. After placing 3rd in the dressage, Nyls and I moved into 1st with a clear cross country on one of the last long format CCI's in the country. We posted a clutch clear show jumping to win our very first international competition! Delightful! 

   As Nyls was only still a 5 year old, I spent the rest of the season building strength and technical skills in order to move up to Intermediate in the spring of 2008. To my delight, Nyls found the increase in jump size extra fun! However, our dressage started to show underlying weakness, and I chose to spend the whole year solidifying our partnership in the dreaded square. Even though he is a large Selle Francais warmblood, Nyls acts as though he was a racehorse in a past life when he gets into the dressage ring, and is still to this day "terrified" of the letters. Or so he claims.

     In the spring of 2009, we contested our first CCI** at Jersey Fresh, which was the biggest, scariest course that we had ever looked at. I was in awe of my fellow competitors in the division, which included legends like Karen O'Connor and Phillip Dutton. I remember saying to my parents on Friday night, "It will literally be a miracle if Nyls and I get around without time penalties tomorrow, he's so slow!". At that point, we had never made time at Intermediate, and I didn't expect that to change. However, the longer course suited him, and we had one of only 3 double clear rides of the day. I was ecstatic. This performance popped us into 3rd place, tied with Boyd Martin and next to Becky Holder in first and Emily Beshear in second. Attending the cross country press conference was certainly a "Whodat??" moment for the reporters! The next day, we posted a double clear show jumping round, making us the only pair of the entire weekend in both the CCI** and CCI*** to do so on both cross country and show jumping. We placed 2nd, only .5 points behind the winner!! Nyls was only 6 at the time, and we were both seeing this level for the first time, and I for one was incredibly impressed with my rogue child.

     Anybody who remembers the winter of 2009/2010 knows that the snowfall was out of control. Our plans to move up to Advanced in the spring were pushed back a bit, as I found out that Nyls strictly refuses to leave the barn when the ground is covered with snow. A true princess. 

    Our first Advanced together was Millbrook in the fall of 2010, where we had a bit of a rough dressage, a stellar clean cross country and a slightly unlucky rail in showjumping to finish 13th in a huge field full of WEG horses and riders doing one last prep run. We then proceeded to run fast and clear at both Southern Pines Advanced and Plantation Advanced, placing 5th and 4th. It was mentioned to me after cross country at Plantation that I might want to spend the winter teaching my horse to "jump worse" because he was spending too much time jumping approximately two feet over every maxed out Advanced jump. Nothing could wipe the smile off my face. 

   However, as it goes with the horsebusiness, the higher you rise, the greater your fall. Nyls and I had a slightly terrifying fall while hacking out in October of 2010 (the pictures are truly too gory for publication) and have spent the winter and spring getting our health and fitness back to par. We ran an Intermediate at Pine Top, and I was aiming for Jersey Fresh CCI***, but due to several circumstances, that plan did not work out.

    Nyls is truly the horse of a lifetime, and I cannot imagine myself without him. I can never repay him for the opportunities that he has given me both in the world of 3-Day Eventing and in terms of my own personal growth. He has shaped who I am today, and who I hope to become in the future. I look forward to many years of his company both in the competition ring and simply playing in the field. 

© Kate Samuels Eventing 2011