Gryffendor began his life as the Jockey Club registered colt Northern Shu on February 26, 1994, here in Kentucky. Click here to see his pedigree. He started in 19 races from September 1997 to September of 1998 racing at Kentucky Downs, Ellis Park, Chuchill Downs, Turfway Park and Keeneland. Click here to see his racing profile.
Northern Shu became Gryffendor ("Gryff") when he was purchased by my friend, who remains his current owner. I was given the chance to ride him five years ago, when she decided that their partnership had reached a stalemate and maybe he would be happier jumping or eventing than being a Dressage horse. As I was "horseless" at the time and looking for something to ride, we decided to give it a shot.
I’d be dishonest if I said that the first time I rode Gryff, it was instant love. Although very talented and a wonderful mover, he was too smart and had been allowed to get away with far too much for way too long. The first year of our partnership was definitely a battle of the wills. He was like a raptor, always testing me for weaknesses systematically. Sometimes it was frustrating; we’d go forward two steps and back six. It took a lot of patience, stubbornness and determination to get through those first months together.
I think when Gryff realized that he’d found a rider who understood him, wouldn’t give up on him and genuinely wanted to be his rider, we reached a point of mutual respect. From respect grew trust and finally love. To some people, loving an animal sounds silly or strange, but as one of my favorite quotes says “the love for a horse is just as complicated as the love for another human being… if you never love a horse, you will never understand.”
These five years with Gryff have flown. It seems just as we end one competition season, we are starting another. Together, we’ve competed at multiple combined tests, his first Beginner Novice and Novice horse trials. In his third outing at Beginner Novice, we won Dressage in a huge division. When we jumped the final fence on cross-country at his first unrecognized Novice horse trial, I spontaneously burst into tears and crossed the finish line with my arms wrapped around his neck, supremely happy and proud. Of course my mom, who was waiting at the finish line, jokingly said “what are you crying for, you silly girl? Who cries after a perfect double clean cross-country?! At the finish line of cross-country at his first recognized Novice horse trial; there were no tears, only pats on the neck and shouts of “good boy! I’m so proud of you!” I had, as suggested by a friend and fellow competitor “ridden him like I stole him,” and we’d run a fast double clear. That moment was one of my happiest in the saddle.
Gryff has taught me more about myself as a rider than I could have ever believed or possibly thank him for. My time with him has shown me that I really enjoy all the pieces (good, bad and mediocre) of bringing a horse along. I will always credit him as my inspiration to adopt Alex and start my own thoroughbred.
Although 2012 was our last year competing together, Gryff will forever hold a special place in my heart. He's currently living the good life, getting some rides once in a while and causing trouble when the mood strikes.