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Equestrian Canada – In 2011, two-time Canadian Pan American Games medalist, Waylon Roberts of West Grove, PA, was tasked with training a large and challenging chestnut for sale. Through twists, turns, and a few changes in ownership, that horse found his way back into Waylon’s hands in time for the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Mars Equestrian, held in Lexington, KY, from April 25-28, 2019.


Canadian Waylon Roberts of West Grove, PA, tackled the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Mars Equestrian, in Lexington, KY, from April 25-28 with Lancaster, née “Baxter K”, whom he trained as a four-year-old.
Photo Credit: Cealy Tetley

Lancaster (Yavari x Indorado) is a 12-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding owned by Michelle and John Koppin. He was born at Ashland Farm in Kanata, ON, as “Baxter K”, and is still called that name around the barn today.

As he grew to be a spunky three-year-old, breeder Paul Morgan recognized that Baxter might not be the right fit for the amateur market, for which Ashland Farm primarily produces their horses. But Paul recognized Baxter’s potential as a high performance eventer, and consequently decided to bring him to Sue Ockendon, the Event Organizer for the Bromont Horse Trials, to train and resell.

“I said to Paul, ‘This is truly an international horse, we’ve just got to get him into the right hands,’ because he was tough to ride as a young horse,” remembered Sue. “So Waylon got on him to straighten him out –Waylon’s what I call a super star, he’s so talented. He gives that horse the best ride he can, and Baxter is becoming exactly what Paul thought he could be when he sent me the horse.”

Waylon explained, “When Baxter was sent to me initially as a four-year-old, he was very nervous during mounting and then quite reactive to the leg. So if I was ever in the wrong place, he’d try to plant me on the ground. It wasn’t long before we came through these issues and he quickly became a barn favourite. He’s always been a very sweet and kind horse on the ground.”

With Waylon working his magic, a much more rideable Baxter caught the eye of Boyd Martin when the American Olympian came to Canada in search of a new horse. Through Boyd’s partnership with owners, Ronald and Densey Juvonen, and with Michael Pendleton in the irons, Baxter rose up the levels and leapt into the international spotlight at the 2015 Plantation Field International Horse Trials. The next year, Waylon serendipitously crossed paths with his former charge at the Horse Park of New Jersey.

“Mike was taking Baxter [to the Intermediate level]. Unfortunately, he had a few rails in the jumping phase and Boyd approached me to make an offer on the horse,” recalled Waylon. “Boyd had said when he bought him as a four-year-old that he felt bad about taking a 4* (now 5*) horse from me. I decided to go have a sit on him at [Boyd’s training centre, Windurra] and thought that I might be able to get a tune out of him. He’s a fabulous mover and has plenty of scope, but does require a certain ride to get the jump out of him. The stars must have been aligned, because Michelle Koppin was in town from Michigan for an event and I approached her about purchasing Baxter. We vetted him and brought him home the next day.”

When Waylon reclaimed the ride on Baxter in 2016, their training sessions were much different than their earlier days together spent developing basic skills.

“Obviously, he was much more educated by the time I got him at nine,” remarked Waylon. “He has matured a lot and is one I look forward to riding and hanging out with every day. All the intermediate movements were on him, so it’s just been building from there. It’s mostly been about strengthening the gaits and the connection. We’ve been focusing on getting the flat work to where he keeps his mind on me and not the scary flowers or whatever it is he thinks he sees, as well as perfecting the ride to the rails and getting the control at speed just right for cross-country.”


After a brief stint with American Olympian Boyd Martin, Waylon reclaimed the ride on Baxter in 2016.
Photo Credit: Shannon Brinkman

The 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI 5*-L offered the perfect setting to put Baxter’s training to the test. While Waylon had previously tackled North America’s premier eventing weekend, it was Baxter’s first time navigating the famous terrain.

On April 26, a strong dressage score of 32.7 penalties had the duo starting out tied for 10th place with Hallie Coon (USA). Sue commented, “Baxter’s got the dressage skills, so that means he could be in the top 10 anywhere in the world, and that is so important for Canada right now.”

Several cross-country time penalties on April 27 and a few rails down in the next day’s show jumping phase brought Waylon and Baxter’s final score to 71.5 penalty points. The pair finished 24th, a respectable placing made even more noteworthy when considering that approximately a quarter of the total CCI 5*-L entries, comprised of top combinations from around the globe, were eliminated, retired, or withdrew throughout the challenging weekend.


Waylon and Baxter came through a challenging weekend to finish in the top 25 at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI 5*-L.
Photo Credit: Cealy Tetley

“I’m so proud of Baxter for how he stepped up for me this week at Kentucky,” said Waylon. “Between his owners, Michelle and John, his groom, Maddie Scott, and I, we couldn’t be happier with his first attempt at a 5*. It means a lot to me because this is the first time I’ve reached a Minimum Eligibility Requirement at this level and he felt like he learned a lot over the week.”

Waylon continued, “I think there is a lot more in him to improve on this result and this performance showed a lot of heart. He was amazing for the first half of the cross-country course and his confidence kept building in that huge atmosphere. We got our wires crossed at the Head of the Lake and both got pretty tired at that moment, so I could have understood if he said, ‘Hey bud, I’m not going to just cart you around here,’ but he stayed super honest and forgave me for a few misses at the end of the course. I think that shows how much he just wants to do the right thing for me.”

Paul, who has kept tabs on his home-bred horse’s career, added, “It’s fantastic for Waylon and the horse; we’re delighted to see a Canadian doing so well with a horse born and bred in Canada, and registered as a Canadian Sport Horse.”

With the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day now crossed off Baxter’s bucket list, Waylon plans to build on his 5* experience in preparation for a run towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Waylon concluded, “In the end, the horses tell you what they’re going to do for you. So as long as I ride him right, I think he has a lot of potential.”

Joining Waylon riding for the maple leaf was Jessica Phoenix of Cannington, ON, and Bogue Sound, Amara Hoppner’s 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding sired by Crafty Shaw, who were the highest-placed Canadian combination in 15th place. For full results from the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, click here.