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In hindsight, it was the hack of a lifetime when amateur hunter rider, Martha Ingram, helped her friend and barn mate, Brad Wolf, hack one of his two horses in an adult amateur hunter class at the 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival. Wolf himself hacked Sunset Hill, and Ingram got to ride Private Practice, aka Peter, who had just won the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals in Kentucky with Tori Colvin in the irons a few months earlier.
“We ended up winning that hack,” remembers Ingram. “As a joke, Brad said that my reward was that I got to jump a jump on Peter in the schooling area.” Ingram laughs when she thinks of the funny episode, almost two years ago. “It was just one jump, but we all knew then that it was a perfect match.”
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Tom Wright, who trains both Wolf and Ingram, saw it all happening. “It was so funny, because she just came out of the corner, laid the reins on his neck, and purred right up to the perfect jump. I was like, Oh, my goodness.”
But nothing significant happened for more than a year. Wolf and Colvin kept showing Peter, and Ingram occasionally rode the fancy chestnut at home. Until last August, when she found Peter gift-wrapped in a bow (photo), indicating he was hers from then on. “Last summer, Brad was ready to sell him, and then it happened. It was a slow burn, as they say,” smiles Ingram.
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Seeing Private Practice and Martha Ingram doing so well together is a dream come true for Wright. “This past week was really special for me because I always had in the back of my mind a secret dream for Martha to have Private Practice be her own,” says Wright. “That it really happened is a culmination of two years worth of quiet work and dreaming. I am so thrilled that it went as well as it did.”
Ingram has had many great horses in her career, but Private Practice seems to be from another planet. “He is amazing,” says Ingram. “Tom and I joke all the time that he is like a Ferrari with so much good energy and scope and stride under him. Peter is not hot at all, but he is definitely sensitive, so he pays really good attention, and I like riding that way. Margot helped me learn that ride,” says Ingram about one of her previous top horses, Fonteyn, aka Margot.
“Peter is so much fun; when he is ready, you just point and shoot and hope you don’t mess him up,” jokes Ingram.
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Riding such a famous horse did come with a lot more pressure. “It’s really hard because he is so famous. When anybody hears his name, they want to watch. It adds a lot more pressure to it,” says Wolf about his experience.
Ingram realizes that as well. “It definitely is pressure, but I’ve had really good junior hunters. They weren’t famous as Peter, but people knew who they were and what they had done with other riders. I’ve kind of learned how to deal with it. You just have to take every day and every round as it is.”
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Asked for the highlight in his years as the owner of Private Practice, Wolf doesn’t have to think long. “I think the absolute highlight to me was when he won Derby Finals. That was the fun thing,” says Wolf. “John Ingram’s horse Cuba won the year before, and we didn’t think that was ever gonna happen again. I was there, cheering Cuba on that night, and John was there the next year, cheering Peter on. It was almost like it was his horse too. It was the most fun night. It was just so incredible that that horse could do that.