Gipetto — the start of our romance with the Hanoverian horse

gipetto & kisses

Geepers and Mary Lou sharing kisses when they were young

On a cold winter's day in Boston in 1985 my best friend was on a mission. While spending Christmas with relatives, she was also helping me search for my next horse. She had already gone all the way to New Hampshire to look at one I had picked out as a possibility, an elegant, leggy Selle Francais. She, who knew me better than I knew myself, quickly ruled out this redheaded beauty. Not for her friend, who could dither and stew over any little thing. She knew better than I that I was in search of a brave, willing, energetic, yet easygoing fellow that would say, "hey let's go check out the world, Mom," rather than, "I'm out of here!" By chance she stumbled upon a big new farm right around the corner from her sister's home. There she met Doug Mankovich. More importantly - there she met Gipetto.

gipetto & Lani Kirk

Gipetto and my friend who found him for me, Lani Kirk

Gipetto was a steel gray 16.1 hand Hanoverian gelding. He had just come to the states from his birthplace in Germany and was barely under saddle. Standing in the cross ties he sent her a confident look that said, "Come here, please!" Assured by Doug that he was a gem of a horse, she climbed on for a trial ride. In the chilled and crowded indoor arena, with jumps set up all over, horses being longed, and lessons being taught, Gipetto showed her a confident nature. When a huge chunk of ice came crashing down from the roof, he kept going while older horses scattered left and right. This was surely the one.

So, I found myself in the same arena a month later. I too got the come hither look from the cross-ties. In fact the view of that substantial gray made my heart clatter. When I rode him, I found gaits that made me thrilled - a big, scopey walk, a trot that had a soft, lilting way about it, and a huge but smooth canter. I was in love.

hugs on the barn aisle

Geepers was always good at hugs

Gipetto came home to me in Florida in February 1986. My friends and I sat on the barn aisle the night he was due throwing a "Welcome Gipetto" party. The next morning we began to learn more about this wonderful fellow. We learned immediately that he was kind, but pushy, supremely sure of himself and of what he wanted. The first thing he wanted was OUT of the stall. When the poor fool who ran the barn did not heed his first polite request, he took things a step further and stood on the wall. A panicked call to me righted things. I figured that he had less chance breaking valuable body parts out with the other geldings than in throwing indoor fits. In time, his demands became less demands than requests, and ultimately he became a nicely mannered fellow who knew the rules and abided by them. This was a good thing, because in time he also grew to be 17 hands. Even with wonderful manners, he never lost his sense of humor. He loved a good joke - and caused too many to relate here.

showing off at Valhalla

Me and Geepers, having fun at a party just for him

He was a wonderful horse to show. His confident nature made him act as though each show was a party put on just for him. He pumped up with joie de vivre and became quite a star. My riding did not do him justice. I had much to learn about contact, light aids, throughness, etc. But, despite me we muddled along passably through second level.

hi world!

Gipetto saying "hello world" at one of his first shows

In 1988, Gipetto suffered a muscle pull in heavy footing that would never quite resolve itself. We had good days and bad ones. Some vets thought that he had hock problems, others thought his stifles were the culprits. Years later I found that his real problem was a chronic inflammation caused by the initial pull and years of further aggravation. In 1990 we started him on a medication that helped enough to give him a reliable soundness at last. With the help of my trainer, Wolfgang Scherzer, I finally had a series of break-throughs in my riding. Things that many other good instructors had patiently told me years before, suddenly made sense. Joy of joys, I was riding fairly well and my horse was sound. We had several glorious years. I don't mean that we went out and knocked the judges' socks off in the ring. What I merely mean is that I learned a lot, we progressed with lateral movements and some collection, and Gipetto and I were in real harmony during our daily rides. He was soft and happy, and I was too!

still hugging

Geepers still hugging at 12, a year before I lost my great friend

I had hoped that Gipetto would be mine through a long life, that we would share trail rides when his age made lateral work too difficult, that he'd be my companion well into his twenties. After all, my first horse lived into his thirties. Sadly this was not to be. I lost my dear friend to a sudden and massive colic that came on in the middle of a summer's night. The next morning I found him dead. His loss devastated me. I had sought his big neck in tears when my mother was dying and my son was rebelling. I had had years of getting used to the sight of him, the feel of his gaits, the sound of his distinctive nicker. We had grown together and become attached to one another. When he was gone I learned that I had so much invested in one horse that I was lost without him. I was no longer comfortable climbing on any horse in the barn. I found that I could not just go out and find a replacement for this longtime companion. He was, after all, irreplaceable.

Gipetto's stone

Gipetto's stone -- It says it all...


I did try to replace him, though. That was what brought me to the place where I am now - breeding Hanoverians. I found another lovely young Hanoverian, once again a horse owned by Doug Mankovich. This big young gray grew too tall for my short legs. But before he went to a new home and a taller rider, Dacapo taught me a few very important things. He taught me that it was very possible to breed excellent Hanoverians here in the states, since he was an example of one. He re-taught me what I already knew - that willingness, character and kindness were every bit as important as grand gaits or a beautiful head. He also made me remember the joy of establishing a bond with a young horse. Now, I always have young horses to bond with - some for life, if they are destined to join my mare herd, others for a short time before they go on to their new homes. During my time with them I always have in my mind my goal - to breed and raise the sort of horse that Geepers was - kind, willing, brave and fun. If they have better gaits and prettier heads than my older style Gipetto had, that is icing on the cake. He would now be looked on with a little condescension by many breeders, as his breeding (Gajus / Glander / Gotthard) yielded an older style that is currently out of fashion. But character and temperament never go out of style.

And so this web-site is dedicated to my first and best loved Hanoverian - Gipetto - who will always be remembered and always be missed.

Mary Lou Winn