Ep.7 Transcript: The Story of Sarah Mullen and Tricidity
Today's horseshoe story is the sweet heart-warming story of Sarah Mullen (nee Swarbrick) and her off the track thoroughbred Tricidity or Trick as he's known. Trick's sire is a horse many of you may be familiar with. He stood at Cambridge Stud here in New Zealand and sired 45 Group One winners including three Melbourne Cup winners. I don't want to give too much away (Sarah will let you know who he was). After a career in racing, Trick embarked on a new career in showjumping. And that's where Sarah's story begins.
Welcome to The Horseshoe Storyteller podcast, where I believe every horseshoe holds a story. I'm Kate Bolton, horse rider, creative and accidental storyteller. You see storytelling isn't something I set out to do. But over the last few years since starting my business Horseshoe Mementoes, I've had the privilege of clients sharing with me the inspiring, deeply moving and entertaining stories behind the horseshoes I have transformed into personalized lasting memories. Incredible tales of partnership, beating the odds, loss and success. Stories that speak of the love we share for our noble friends. Stories that are too good to keep to myself. And so I've become The Horseshoe Storyteller to share them with you. If you love a good horse story, you're in the right place. Let's get started.
Hi Sarah, thank you so much for joining us today. I'm looking forward to hearing your story about Trick. But first I thought I’d start with your earliest memory of being around horses or riding.
Horses have always been a big part of my life. My Mum was a really successful show jumper and eventer throughout New Zealand. She got me my first pony at three years old, a little pony called Polly. But I used to call her the little witch because she was such a brat to ride. We had a lovely big farm and we'd go mustering out the back and about halfway through the day Polly just decided she wanted to go home. So me as a little kid on top, would just trot all the way home. I had no control over it.
Your Mum would be waving to you would she?
Pretty much. Mum would be on top of the hill and she would wave me goodbye. She knew I'd get home safely. But yeah, good fond memories. And then I had some really great ponies that grew my love for the sport. Tough ponies. Mum always had one that was a little bit troublesome or was someone else's problem pony. Just to keep me on my toes and help develop my riding.
When did you first come across Tricidity?
I was 15 and I decided I wanted to focus on showjumping after years of pony club and eventing. Mum decided that we would go looking through Horse and Pony magazines and everything and she spotted him in a sale ad. He was a thoroughbred off the track that had just started his showjumping career in the North Island.
So we flew to Wellington and drove up to the Taihape A&P Show. That was an experience. We watched him there and got to meet his owner Sarah who had actually worked with Trick in Australia during his racing career. And it was quite clear from that, that he was something special because at nine years old, he finally finished racing and she brought him back to New Zealand. I rode him a few times at the Show and I just fell in love. We clicked instantly and it was such a cool connection.
What disciplines did you compete with?
He was showjumping mainly. We competed up to 1:30m. I did try an event him a couple of times, but he was absolutely terrified of water. Even at home we couldn't get him to go through puddles. It did come back to haunt us a couple of times because at McLean's Island they used to have a large inbuilt water jump in the main arena and every now and then at National Championship Events they'd put that in. And so Trick would jump it like it was a 1:60m jump and full of crocodiles or snakes.
Trick had a world famous father, can you tell us who he was?
It was Sir Tristram who was owned by Sir Patrick Hogan. He stood at Cambridge Stud. He was notorious for having a really vicious nature. Anyone that's read his book will certainly know the stories that go behind him. I got to meet Sir Patrick at Equidays. It was quite a few years ago, and it was such an honour. I was like a little kid in a candy shop. I was so excited and he was the most polite and genuine man. I told him all about Trick and he just sat there and listened to me and he had some other stories about Sir Tristram and the other wonderful horses he had at Cambridge.
What was his (Trick's) personality like? Was he like his father, a bit wild? Or was he...
He was certainly an individual. He was definitely Trick by name and trick by nature. He didn't have an aggressive nature like his father, but he was extremely cheeky and really arrogant. But he had a huge heart and just loved his job.
He didn't suffer fools human or his fellow equine friends. He was quite aggressive to other horses, but would lewer them in thinking he was friendly and then just attack. So we had to be really cautious at events and even paddocking him with other horses at home.
But he was really tricky to hold and friends and family would always avoid holding him. It meant they would just start to run the moment they knew I had to walk a course and look like I was passing on the reins. They would just bolt because he would just sit behind you and just nudge you with his nose consistently just to be annoying. And then, if you're sitting down on a seat, he'd just push you off. When you got angry with him, the more you told him off, the worse he got.
Mum's got so many videos of me riding other horses while holding Trick and it's just terrible. The camera is shaking, it's on the ground, it's up in the air because he just would push her around and walk in front. It was just in his nature to say you're meant to be looking at me, don't look at those other horses. It's all about me.
But he had such a huge heart as well, like in his jumping career he never minded if I missed so badly, he just would jump out of any tight spot. It was incredible. And the jump offs he'd turn on a dime and jump from any angle. He didn't mind sharp corners or tight corners. He just absolutely loved his job. And his heart was so big and so genuine.
He was obviously really athletic to be able to do that.
Yeah, he certainly was. And I think that was the thoroughbred showing through that he was he was agile and athletic and then had the grit and determination of his father. Yeah.
Can you share a couple of highlights or funny moments or favourite memories?
Trick, will do anything for me in the ring. But he was not easy. And he had a really unique style of going which between fences he'd flick his head, like violently flick it up and down. He never did it at home and never did it in warm-ups or anything. It was just whether it was like a nerve related thing once he got in the ring. But people always used to laugh and say, how the heck do you ride and how do you see where you're going? But he knew, he knew exactly where the jumps were.
And he also taught me how to control my nerves, because if you ever got nervous with him, he'd just stop dead in the ring. If you were really nervous. He did it to me a couple of times at some National Events, he'd just stop. Stand there. You'd pull yourself together. It was just his way of telling you like come on, you're not riding very well pull yourself together, you're so nervous.
And carry on. He was also an absolute brat to exercise at home. Yeah, we could never take him to schooling or lessons because it was just a nightmare to head out. Sometimes I'd lead them off other horses, it was a lot more pleasant to lead him in his fitness work.
I'll always remember one day we were at the beach and he got away from me on the lead because he used to try and race the other horses and keep in front. He got free and he got into the pine forest. I spent an hour trying to get him back. He just sat just ahead of me the whole time and I couldn't catch him and it was getting dark. I was getting very frustrated. He was called lots of choice names that day.
Really one of my best memories of Trick was at Nationals in Christchurch. Bill Northern the animal communicator was there and I was in Trick's yard mucking out. Bill was working with a horse next door. And he just leaned to me and tapped me on the shoulder and he said that horse, he's telling me he's better than everyone. And I just laughed and we giggled about it for days because that was Trick. If he could've talked he would have told us that he was the best. Whether he was or wasn't the best, he thought he was. And that was his attitude for life.
What was your greatest accomplishment with him?
It's really hard just to pinpoint one. I think Trick's whole career was amazing. We learned so much together. He was the first horse that I ever took to Horse of the Year. I remember driving up there and I was so excited and so nervous and anxious as well. I knew that I was a really small fish in a big sea.
We got up there, the first class I went out, I think it was 1:15m class. I jumped at probably nine o'clock in the morning. It was huge, there was over 200 people in the class. We went back later on that afternoon just in hear, hoping for minor placings. He jumped a good quick round, but I knew those North Islanders were speedy. And he won! And for every event that week he placed. He had two other wins and a third so it was just mind blowing. I was so rapt, I couldn't believe how successful it had been.
From then on at every event we went to, it was very rarely that he didn't place. He won multiple 1:15m and 1:25 championships. We placed in quite a number of Amateur Riders and Derby classes. He just, he was very quick. Speed classes were definitely his favourite. He could just turn on a dime and he had a big even stride. A nice big thoroughbred stride. He never looked like he was going fast. He just covered the ground and got home through the flags the quickest.
That must have been so exciting, your first Horse of the Year and winning that first class like, wow!
Yeah, it was. It was mind blowing. I think, you know, there's so many people that go to Horse of the Year and it's just an honour to compete at a show like that. Let along getting a ribbon or to win a class. So it's keeping it real though because it doesn't always happen. There was you know, years to come. He did continue to place but there was also times when we hit some low moments up there. But still it was an honour to have placed up there like that.
What's he up to now?
So we retired him in 2015 and he's living his best life on a farm now. He's spoilt rotten, he lives on my Mum's farm. He's retired with my other showjumping horse Cannikin and my eventer Carnegie. So yeah, the three of them, the three old men just live out their lives and enjoy the freedom. He still acts like he's two years old, he creates havoc and chases you around and demands dinner on time every night.
Keeping your Mum honest.
So yeah, we made the decision to retire him at Horse of the Year in 2015. He was 22. And had a wonderful career and a big career racing as well. And although he was sound and still healthy, I just wanted to do it when he was happy. And people keep saying keep on going. He'll be fine. He'll tell you. But I think his determined nature, he wouldn't have told me he would have just keep going until he physically couldn't go anymore.
We knew we were doing the right thing by him, and he really didn't owe me anything else to keep going.
If you could name one gift that Trick bought to your life, what would that be?
Patience is probably the biggest one. Yeah, I really had to learn to be patient and just accepting of his crazy nature. And that's progressed through into the rest of my riding career. You've got to have patience with working with young horses or any horse, and also resilience. In Trick's earlier days he suffered a serious injury not long after we purchased him. And it was heartbreaking. It was a total roller coaster trying to get him back on track. And so it taught me to just stay positive, and just deal with all the highs and lows that come with the sport.
But really Trick was a total blessing. He was just one in a million horse that I will always be thankful he was such a big part of my riding career.
Congratulations on your recent marriage. I know that you invited your good friend and longtime farrier Wayne McClintock and his lovely wife, Anne, to your wedding and they gave you a special gift. Can you tell us how you felt when you received that gift and what it was?
Words can't really explain how I felt. It was extremely emotional. So Wayne has been my longtime farrier. And one day when he was at home shoeing another horse he snuck and grabbed a shoe that I'd keep from Trick's last shoeing. And unbeknown to me, he gave it to you. And he got made into a beautiful Memento.
He gifted it to me at the wedding ceremony as my lucky horseshoe. And it's engraved with mine and my husband's name on it and our wedding day. And it's just stunning. It takes pride of place in our lounge now. It was a really special moment to have Wayne and Anne there on our day and Wayne to be able to share in that because he was there for every moment during Trick's career and knew how special Trick was to me.
Yes. Wayne is also my farrier and I remember him coming around one day, and he said I've got a horseshoe in the back here. I need to sneak it to you. He gave it to me and wrote down all the details.
He did a great job of sneaking it out. I had no idea. I'd kept the shoe for, gosh, five years. And I didn't even notice that it had disappeared off my mantelpiece, which shows how little dusting I actually do. But I remember he kept asking me (my husband's got a slightly different name), and he kept asking me how to spell it. And I thought that's really strange. Like, why does he need that? It was really special and very kind of Wayne to do that.
What comes to mind when you look at it up there on your mantelpiece?
I mean, so much! Looking at the memento and it brings back a lot of emotions. Trick was so influential in my riding career. We had lots of great ups and downs as is the nature of the sport.
But mainly it just reminds me of many, many great years of traveling around the country, meeting the most amazing friends. Lots of laughter, a few tears, and then lots of celebrating. And lots of great stories told over a glass or two of rum.
What's equestrian life like for you now? What are you up to?
It's a lot quieter than the years I had with Trick. I had three other horses on the team at the time with Trick, so four busy competing. And now I've got two. I have a lovely off the track thoroughbred that I got from Joy White and he had come from Nga Puke Stud, he's a Testa Rossa. So we're doing Two** Eventing now. And he's been really successful this season.
About 18 months ago, I purchased a lovely little coloured warmblood. And I've just broken him in and hope to produce him as a showjumper. He might be out to some shows the season.
Are there any supporters or sponsors that have you know, really made a difference that you'd like to acknowledge?
Probably my biggest supporter would have to be my Mum. She's been there every year to every show, she's always there on the side-line, helps with everything. Whether it be driving to the show or saddling up. She just has been an incredible supporter and teacher throughout my whole life. She's always been there to commiserate and certainly to celebrate.
Another supporter for me would be Wayne. Wayne has sponsored my team since 2008. And he's just not only been a wonderful sponsor, but just an absolute long-time friend now. For him and Anne it's been amazing to have him on the journey of my competitive career.
How can people follow you?
Nice and simple. My Instagram name is just @swarbricksarah. So yeah, nice and easy. So you can pop along there and follow and see what I'm up to now.
Yeah, follow along with Ben and this new four year old that you've got going? Yeah, it's really exciting. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It's been really interesting learning about Tricidity and what you guys got up to. I'm glad to hear that he's having a lovely time in his retirement, he's definitely deserves it with all that he's achieved.
Yeah, he certainly has. And thank you so much. And thank you for the amazing Horseshoe Memento it's absolutely gorgeous.
Oh, you're welcome. It was my pleasure.
Wasn't that just the sweetest? I hope you enjoyed the story of Sarah and Trick. What I love about their story is the long partnership they've been fortunate to have together. From when Sarah was just 15 years old (and Trick 9), to Trick now being 27 and happily retired. That's 18 years they've enjoyed together so far.
It's a wonderful thing to have a depth of connection with the horse, despite their quirks (like tricks head flicking in the arena). I loved how the total understanding and trust that Sarah and Trick had in each other, particularly while competing, really shone through in their story.
And I can't not mention the heart-warming gesture of Sarah's farrier and his wife Anne, to give one of Trick's worn horseshoes transformed into a Wedding Horseshoe Memento on her special day.
Here in the southern hemisphere spring has well and truly arrived. We're currently bottle feeding orphan lambs, which also means we're entering wedding season. If you're interested in surprising a bride to be like Wayne did with a Wedding Horseshoe Memento there'll be a link in the show notes to where you can purchase.
Thanks as always for listening to The Horseshoe Storyteller Podcast where we believe every horseshoe holds a story.