What’s in a name? For Lauren Hester’s Happy Feet B (Happy), the name was all it took to seal the deal for Hester to purchase the 2012 KWPN filly in the 2012 Limburg Foal Auction in the Netherlands.
“I had a specific budget to purchase a new horse from the Limburg Auction. But when I didn’t end up finding one, I looked into their Foal Auction instead. As soon as I saw her name, I wanted to buy her,” explained Hester.
While Happy’s pedigree caught Hester’s attention (Zacherov x Daronka) her appearance was not as attractive. “She was just dark bay and honestly, she was not very pretty. But as she got older, she began to shed out and turn gray. She looks completely different now than the foal I purchased,” Hester said with a smile.
Despite Happy’s lackluster appearance as a foal, Hester has always felt that she would develop into a competitive show jumper. She knew that taking her time to develop Happy slowly and allowing her to progress at her own pace would pay off in the long run. The mare began her competitive career by winning a 5-Year-Old Young Jumper class at HITS Desert Circuit I. But unfortunately, after this successful debut, Hester suffered a broken shoulder and had to entrust Happy’s training to other professionals while she recovered. Picking up where they had left off, the duo returned to the ring together in late April of that year, wrapping up the season with a 3rd place finish at the Midwestern League Final of the Young Jumper Championships.
The following year, Happy moved into the 6-year-old as well as 1.30m classes, competing in Kentucky and Ohio. Full of character, Hester noted some of the mare’s uniqueness. “She has a lot of attitude, so one of the most important parts of her success is how we manage her daily.” she said. “At home, she goes straight to turnout in the morning before we ride. We’ve been spending time working on getting her to the ring quietly. She definitely has her quirks but she’s a great ride and so good over the fences that we don’t really mind!”
Happy spent the first half of her 7-year-old year with Allen Clarke, a natural horsemanship trainer in California. “Since getting her back from Allen, she has felt great! I am really thankful for the time he spent working with her,” shared Hester. “He encouraged me to keep taking my time with her because she really loves to jump but can get anxious. So our plan is to keep taking things slowly.”
In September of 2019, Happy made her grand prix debut at Brownland Farm Fall I, after a successful 5th place finish in the 1.40m Welcome Stake earlier in the week. “I really felt like we had a good shot at Brownland because it’s such an inviting atmosphere. Tim (Hott) does a great job at building courses that are approachable,” said Hester.
Out of 26 entries, Happy Feet and Hester were double clear and finished second overall. Then the following week at Brownland Farm Fall II, the duo topped twenty-one entries in the $25,000 Brownland Farm Grand Prix for the win.
“Every time we walk into the ring this horse fights for me,” said Hester, “I feel like a good mare is just like that, they don’t give up.”
Looking ahead, Hester plans to continue to develop Happy into a Grand Prix mount. “Ever since we bought her, I have always felt like she could compete in the big classes,” shared Hester. “No matter where I put her, she is always looking for where to go next. It all comes very naturally to her.”
With a solid foundation in place and proven success in the ring, the name seems to suit. If recent past predicts, it appears that Happy Feet and Hester will continue to light up the leaderboards.