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May 6, 2016

A Draft Cross Carries Kowalchik To IHSA Alumni Win

The horse Emily Kowalchik rode to the top of the alumni class, Remington, is a Thoroughbred-Shire cross.

Lexington, Ky.—May 6   

In the sea of IHSA horses milling around the warm-up area, Remington is hard to miss. He’s big, he’s so dark he's almost black, and with his gorgeous white markings, he looks like romance novel cover material. "Remi" is a Shire-Thoroughbred cross, not a breed you see every day in the hunter/jumper world.

But that didn’t stop Remi from jumping a spot-on round with Emily Kowalchik to help her win the alumni over fences class. 

“He’s really cute; he had a fan club around him when I was getting on,” Kowalchik said with a laugh. “The Mount Holyoke team was petting him and playing with his forelock, because he’s really cute and super sweet.”

Remi turns on the charm at the shows, but his trainer, Joyce Brinsfied, said he has his moments.

“He’s very opinionated,” Brinsfield said. “At horse shows he’s better, but at home it’s all on his own terms.”

Remi’s owner, Kristine Urschel, agrees completely with Brinsfield, and she would know best—she’s owned Remi since he was 3.

“He has a lot of rules,” Urschel said. “He’s 18 this year, and it seems like every year he adds a new rule and makes us figure out what his new rule is.”

For example: his turnout situation.

“He has to be turned out before he’s ridden, even if you’re planning to ride him 20 minutes after turnout,” Urschel said. “He has to go out, even if it’s for 15 minutes, and then come back in.”

Urschel, a professor in the equine science department at the University of Kentucky, is originally from Alberta, Canada, and that’s where she found Remi as a 3-year-old—a Shire-Thoroughbred cross in a reining barn, of all places.

“A friend of mine was working at a reining facility, and this horse came in to be broke,” Urschel recalled. “She knew that I was looking for a new horse, so it sort of happened that way, but he only had 60 days on him when I got him, and his first 60 days were by a reining trainer.”

Urschel brought Remi along to the 3’6” jumpers, and when she moved to the United States for a job at Virginia Tech and eventually a position at the University of Kentucky, she brought Remi with her. When her schedule got too hectic to ride regularly, she leased Remi out.

“Probably the biggest thing with him is he likes to teach, like he likes to be the one in charge,” Urschel said. “Over the years he’s had I don’t even know how many half leasers, and he loves teaching them how to show and get to the next level. He loves it.”

What better way to put his skill set to work than at an IHSA show? Remi was a perfect gentleman for his class and test with Kowalchik, and Kowalchik was extra prepared for the IHSA National Championships thanks to her own riding situation.

“I was leasing a horse, and now I’m in between horses,” Kowalchik said. “But it’s been probably better practice to be in between, because I was riding a bunch of different horses for the past couple months.”

Kowalchik works in the marketing department for a company in Cincinnati selling different sorts of entertainment equipment like home theater systems and spas. It keeps her busy, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.   

“It’s usually 6 by the time I get to the barn, and I don’t eat dinner till 9 p.m. most nights, and that’s OK; riding comes first,” Kowalchik said. “But that’s why I wanted to do alumni, to have a reason to keep competing and stay focused on a goal.”

Check back with the Chronicle for continued coverage of the IHSA National Championships. The first over fences phase of the Caccione Cup concluded Friday, with open over fences champion Chase Boggio earning the high score of 89. Full results can be found here. 

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