Tim Delovich Provides Top Care for Champion Derby Horses
We recently sat down to talk with Tim Delovich, barn manager and caretaker at Ashmeadow Farm, to hear about the top-notch care he offers to the hunter derby horses, such as derby star Lafitte de Muze, and how BioStar plays a part. Read on to learn about the ins and outs of their program and how they are preparing for the upcoming USHJA Derby Finals.
Can you describe what your primary roles are as caretaker of the performance horses?
“Primarily it’s the health of the horses — health, conditioning, diet, and care. We have a great support staff that helps me out but I try my best to oversee their basic health and wellbeing. We fluctuate between 17 and 20 horses. Currently we have 17.”
How many of those horses are Amanda [Steege’s] professional rides vs client horses?
“Lafitte de Muze, our big derby horse, is only ridden by Amanda. Most of them have a second job, while about five are primarily for Amanda, but clients do ride them from time to time and show them.”
Let’s talk about derby horses specifically. Do you center your program around the USHJA Derby Finals, or do you just keep the bigger classes in mind at various horse shows?
“With Lafitte, we definitely have a nice sit down and we make a plan for our goals, and what classes we’re going to do to best set us up to attain those goals. We’ve been pretty successful and lucky — He’s won quite a few things.”
What are some of the characteristics of a derby horse and what do you think makes Lafitte special?
“I think they need to be brave and athletic. I think the best ones are intelligent and they understand when they step in the ring, it’s different. I do my best to make all my horses feel great, but I feel like when Lafitte steps in the ring, he feels nothing. Like a true competitor. He thinks ‘This is my job, I love it’ and even if his back is a little sore or whatever it is, he never seems to show that when the time comes.”
Is there anything specific that you do in his care that’s different for him, with your goals in mind?
“He’s the fittest horse in my barn, I think that’s important for the Derby horses. It might not always show up in a lot of our derbies, but when you get to Derby Finals in that big ring, and the course is big, they have to be fit. We always have our derby horses focused much more on fitness and conditioning than you would with most of your show hunters. With the derby horses it gets to be a little bit more planning out with their classes, more like a Grand Prix horse. It’s not a weekly thing — we really wanted to win the night class in Wellington this year, so that’s when we sat down and figured out some classes to do that without overloading it, but keep him sharp.”
How do you keep a horse super fit but also have him be quiet enough to go around in hunter style over the course of the derby? Do you ever have an issue balancing the fitness with the excitement?
“For sure, I feel like right now he’s very fit and that’s definitely worried me. When I get him ready, I spend a lot of time with him and you just learn their personalities. The last couple of classes, I worried he was a little too energetic, but he knows what the deal is and he wants to do his best as much as we want him to do his best. I do have that concern sometimes, but for him particularly, it’s worked out fine.”
We’re only a couple weeks away from Derby Finals, can you talk about his program right now? What will the next few weeks look like for him until we get to that big show?
“We had a plan, and we were thinking of doing one more derby at Saugerties before Derby Finals, but he was so spectacular in the last several. When Amanda came out of the ring, after going out on the grass field in Lake Placid, she said “I’m ready, he’s ready, we don’t need to do another class,” so I think we’re going to stick with that. Just keeping him fit and happy. She’s actually been back and forth to the Princeton horse shows, so I get to ride when she’s away and that’s always fun for me.”
What are some of the things you focus on in to determine his fitness and conditioning and how he’s feeling through his body?
“Amanda’s very good at feeling things in all the horses when she rides them, and she’s very good at communicating what she’s feeling. Then, I’m able to put my hands on them and find what I need to do to help them, or who I need from my best group of friends that give me a hand. I need a contact for some answers. Whether it’s Tigger [Montague] about a supplement, or Cathy McEnroe that does the body work on him, I can reach out to them. And even if they can’t directly assist me they can help me answer the questions that I have.”
Do you deal with ulcers as much as others do in other disciplines? Is that something that you have had to contend with?
“For sure. I don’t think it’s the job being asked, I think it’s the lifestyle. We’re constantly changing things. We love it, and I think some of the horses are into it, but it’s their personalities and it’s usually the ones you don’t think have ulcers that have ulcers. It’s not the hot ones, it’s the quiet internalizers that I’ve scoped and had the biggest problem with ulcers. So I don’t think it matters what job you’re asking them to do. I think it’s the traveling, changing the venues, they feel our stress when the riders are nervous and wanna win, and everything and I think it’s all those things and I think it’s just part of the whole thing.”
Can you talk a little bit about how you found BioStar and where the products fit into your program now?
“It was through my body worker Cathy McEnroe, who is good friends with Tigger. Cathy used to do a rehab barn and she was on me for years to try the BioStar products, but you have to keep your formula and I had a supplement formula that I was happy with so it was kind of hard to jump ship. She just kept giving me products to try and I was just amazed. Because they’re natural, the horses all eat them. First off, I’ve never had one that wouldn’t eat any of the products. And I saw rather quick results and quick small results, and the longer they are on them, obviously, the better the results.
I’ve actually transferred all my horses on BioStar products now and I’ve been super happy. I think that’s the biggest thing. They’re natural products so the horses’ bodies are able to absorb them. You’re not wasting things and you’re getting the most bang for your buck.”
What are your favorite products to use?
“All my horses are on Adaptor EQ and Circuvate EQ, and I’ve been having really good luck lately with the Thera-Gard EQ for their stomachs. I’ve been super happy with that. I’ve been able to transition horses over to Thera-Gard that get it on show days or even when we’re traveling.”