Peter Barry of Dunham, QC, is not your average person, however, and this year the self-professed late bloomer and Kilrodan Abbot tackled their first Rolex Kentucky – their first four-star – with commendable results. The pair finished 25th – not bad at all considering this was just his second year at the advanced level (he placed fourth in the Fair Hill CCI3* last year), and the Rolex cross-country saw much more experienced riders come to grief.
Barry, now 55, reflected on his cross-country round. “In hindsight, I wish I had been a little bit more focused. When I watched my crosscountry round afterward, someone said it looked very “casual.” I had a big smile on my face and I was just kind of riding around. I think I would have been better off to have been kicking a little bit more. It looked all very “la-ti-da”, like a Sunday afternoon ride.”
“The one runout we had was because I needed to be a bit more aggressive, a bit more there. If I could do it over again, I would try to be a bit more workmanlike. The upside is we got around. In the morning I watched the first couple of riders go around, and good riders, well-placed in the top 10, were falling off and having runouts.” He noted with amusement that at this year’s Rolex he was assigned #25, and came 25th, and will ask for a lower number next time.
Kilrodan Abbott, or “Eddie,” seemed to have as much fun as his owner. The 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding came through without a scratch, and weathered the transition to a big four-day competition well. “After every big workout or event we put him in icewater up to his knees and he munches on apples and carrots,” explained Barry. “He was completely happy at Rolex – I really think he liked the four days because of the extra availability of apples and carrots!”
Barry nearly changed the bay gelding’s name when he bought him four years ago in Ireland. “Kilrodan just sounded way too nasty. It conjured up images of killing rodents. But then when I asked the owner how they came up with the name, I was told there is a village of Kilrodan in Ireland which has a very big monastery – the Abbott of Kilrodan. I can live with that.”
Originally from Cologne in Germany’s Rhine Valley region, Barry moved to Turkey as a young boy and attended school there. He later returned to Germany to finish his education. Although he speaks the language fluently, he admitted, “The funny thing is, I cannot take my dressage lessons in German because I don’t know the terminology. I don’t know what halfpass, half-halt mean in German.”
Barry expected his life to take a much different path. “Originally I wanted to sail around the world, but the women in my life – my mother and my wife – got together and made sure that didn’t happen. My mother didn’t want me gone, and my wife didn’t want to be stuck cooking meals on a sailboat.”
When he moved to Quebec 27 years ago, “by luck or coincidence I stumbled onto riding. I like the outdoors, and I like animals.” It started innocently enough. “I began hacking around on my neighbour’s appaloosa and thought I knew all there was to know about riding. I updated from the appaloosa to a Thoroughbred who quickly made me realize I knew absolutely nothing. It evolved from there.”
His first horse was named Admiral, and he is still in Barry’s barn. His first eventing horse was an off-the-track Thoroughbred named The Wolf, purchased from Bruce Davidson with the intent of being a schoolmaster. “He was a tad on the keen side,” said Barry, laughing at the understatement. “When Bruce Davidson sold him to me, he suggested I might want to use a Cherry Roller gag bit with him. I didn’t understand the meaning of that, so Bruce just said, “The horse is a tad keen.”
What attracted Barry to the sport of eventing in the first place? “I did show jumping a little bit, but the concept of being outside, going to different places in beautiful landscapes, and the people, all drew me to eventing.”
Retired since selling his clothing business, Barry and his wife, Susan, operate two Maple Hill Farms, one in Quebec’s eastern townships the other in Aiken, SC, where they are neighbours with eventer Phillip Dutton. “It’s great, I enjoy being able to ride over and work with Phillip,” Barry said. He is also working on expanding his pool of eventing talent somewhat, having just purchased a new horse in January of this year, a promising seven-year-old Selle Francais/Thoroughbred gelding. He had been bringing a lovely mare up through the ranks, but while out hacking beside the road one day an 18-wheeler passed dangerously close. The mare spooked into the ditch and got injured. The Barrys have since bred her; their breeding program at Maple Hill crosses talented mares with top Thoroughbred and Warmblood stallions. “We hope to get a nice baby from her,” he said. The Barry’s two children, Alexandra, 16, and Dylan, 19, are also both involved in the family business. Alexandra rides and Dylan helps with the haying and the other myriad chores entailed in farm life.
As far as future plans go, Barry said, “Eddie is turned out right now. I want him to have a month off and then bring him back and see what happens. I would like to do some local show jumping this summer. My daughter comes with me and it is kind of a family affair. I want to improve my dressage. Then I would like to go to Rolex next spring and put to work what I have learned.”