Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. In a story that echos the fairy tale of the Prince and the Pauper, a drama unfolded over the Internet over the course of the past few days when it was determined that a grand prix jumper delivered to a sales barn on the East Coast was uncovered as an impostor.
In September Good Guinness, a 17.2 hand dark brown gelding with a star, was placed on a trailer in California bound for New York by trainer Patrick Seaton. A black gelding with a star was subsequently delivered to Frank Madden’s barn on Long Island, NY where the horse was shown to prospective buyers.
Fast forward to the beginning of this week. Good Guinness, a horse with an estimated value of $200K has been shown to buyers, competed at a few shows, and has not yet sold. In fact, his performance has been disappointing. Patrick Seaton goes to check on the horse at WEF and discovers, to his horror, that the horse in the stall wearing GG’s halter is not the horse he sent to New York.
The first part of the mystery is solved quickly: a microchip implanted in the impostor horse reveals him to be a horse imported from Europe in 2004 named Con-Air.
An all-points bulletin for GG is issued and it doesn’t take long before the tips come in. Several people believe that they’ve seen GG showing under the name “Kanye” at WEF as in the high junior jumpers. Not surprisingly, he was quite successful. The fences probably seemed low to him.
“Kanye” was supposed to be a junior jumper that McLain Ward had taken in trade from a customer and who he had subsequently leased to a junior rider. The Ward’s barn was also the stop before Madden’s on the route of the shipper that had carried GG from California. By late yesterday, the identification was confirmed and an agent for Patrick Seaton had taken the horse from the barn where he had been living under an assumed identity in New Jersey.
So how did Kanye (actually Con-Air) and GG get mixed up? That part is not yet clear. Yes, the two horses are similar in appearance. But you would think that shippers have a good strategy for keeping straight which horses are going to which barns. Especially the horses with a street value of $200K. Was it a shipping mistake? Or did someone intentionally switch the two horses?
Then, there’s the question of performance. Poor Con-Air was expected to perform as a Grand Prix jumper, a job for which he clearly did not have the scope. Living as the prince must have been a challenge for him when he was really a 3’6″ horse. Didn’t anyone wonder why his performance was so under par?
As for the real GG, it must have become clear to his junior rider and her trainer that the horse they leased had considerably more scope than they expected. But I guess she and her trainer can be excused for thinking they got the deal of the century! In the end, she’s the one I pity: for six months she had the ride of her life on a horse that she thought she’d leased for a year. I wonder if the real “Kanye” will be a disappointment now.
Here’s a video of the authentic Good Guinness jumping:
Sources for the story:
Jumper Missing after Cross Country Haul
Impostor Horse Identified in Missing Jumper Case
Missing Jumper Located
Missing GP Horse Found Competing at Lower Level Events
4 thoughts on “Lost . . . and Found! The Tale of Good Guinness and the Impostor.”
Good Grief! I would’ve thought scanning the microchip of an arriving horse immediately would be best-practice management for any top level barn.
One of the barn owners I worked for in my twenties also worked for a professional long distance hauler. (This was pre-microchips) This particular company was meticulous…he used to complain about the copious paperwork and frequent radio check ins. 🙂 If a horse’s position was moved in the trailer, it had to be called in. Polaroids were taken of each horse and placed in plastic sleeves mounted in the position the horse had in the trailer, so when horses were off-loaded for an overnight barn stop, or to stretch their legs, they were double checked against the photos and paperwork. Their positions in the barn were also called in.
He hated it that everything had to be checked a billion times. I always thought: how professional. Every haul had a two driver team. Should there be an emergency involving a driver, the rig stopped at the next possible barn and stayed there until another team member could be brought in. Ticked off people waiting, and I’m sure cost the company money, but again: how professional. The rig was never left unattended, for any reason, with horses inside…and it was locked.
Does anyone know how it works today, with the top haulers?
You’ve missed a key point: the leasee expecting to get ConAir/Kanye, may not have thought “wow I’ve got a great horse, what a deal” when actually hte horse is hard to ride and knocks down lower fences.
On the COTH forums, a woman who’s daughter used to show GG points out that he doesn’t like low fences, knocks them down, and is not an easy horse to ride.
I smell something foul!
Good Guinness is not a ‘hard’ horse to ride if you’re an experienced jumper. Anyone not on his level has no business being on his back.
It’s clearly another of McLain’s shady practices. Seriously, he just needs to go away.