Note from the Editor: Artie and Joanna are a story of inspiration! Not often do we see a horse rise to FEI levels under one partnership, let alone as a stallion climbing those grueling ranks with his beloved owner. We think this speaks volumes for his character and resilience, despite the challenges he faced after his early success in the breed classes. Enjoy reading about it from Artie’s biggest fan, his owner/rider/partner-for-life Joanna Gray-Randle.
Royal Tourmalet SPF – 2011 Hanoverian Stallion
(Royal Prince – Armin – Futuro)
Written by Joanna Gray-Randle
“Artie” and I share a very special bond.
My parents tell me that from the very first time I saw a horse at age two, I was smitten. I was fortunate to grow up in the horse-friendly community of Thousand Oaks, California and spent my childhood riding in the hills, swimming my horse in the stream-fed ponds and jumping any obstacle in my path. My horsey activities included hunter/jumper shows, gymkhana, dressage, eventing, driving, riding in parades, and even taking my horse for a dip in the Pacific Ocean.
My passion for horses was not to be denied, and I have happily embraced my career as a trainer, clinician, coach, and judge. Recently I posted a photo on Facebook of a 17-year-old me galloping a racehorse. Someone commented, “Is there anything you haven’t done involving horses?” That question started me reflecting on the journey I have been taking with my wonderful Hanoverian stallion, Royal Tourmalet SPF.
In 2009, after a relocation from California to New York and my need for spinal fusion surgery, I “retired” from horses. But then came a stallion lovingly nicknamed “Artie”, phonetically derived from his name’s acronym “R.T.”. Healed from surgery, and bored to tears, I started circulating my resumé to let local equestrians know I was available for clinics and lessons. In 2011, one such clinic I taught was at Sandpiper Farms in Riverhead, New York. Owned by Gina Leslie, Sandpiper Farms is a boutique breeding operation with a few boarders.
After the clinic, Gina took me around to introduce me to her small herd of broodmares. I was immediately struck by the quality of AHS Main Studbook mare Adira (by Armin). Adira was heavily in foal to Royal Prince and about two months away from foaling. I left the farm that day asking to be contacted when the foal was born, because who doesn’t want to see babies, right? I was in no way in the market for a foal.
Two months later, I was happy to receive the call that the foal was here and drove out to see him the next day. He was so beautifully put together, friendly, and had fantastic markings. In the months that followed, I thought a lot about the bay colt with bling; I also found my status as a non-horse owner depressing. While at Lincoln Center watching a production of War Horse, I was overcome with emotion when the puppet foal Joey came on stage. I emailed Gina the moment I got home from the play, and a short time later, purchased the bay colt. The lovely 2011 Hanoverian colt entered my life, and I named him Royal Tourmalet SPF, his barn name would be “Artie”.
You see, to answer the earlier question, something I hadn’t done with horses was to raise a foal of my own. I had raised clients’ foals, and had started my own 2-year-old, but never one as young as my new Hanoverian. Upon buying Artie, I uttered into the universe that I would like to be able to compete him as a 4-year-old stallion and earn qualifying scores for the U.S. National Young Horse Dressage Championships.
Silly me, I forgot to make any goals beyond that, except perhaps that I’m hoping Artie will be my “century ride” someday.
The years passed and I could not be prouder of my young stallion’s accomplishments, he was definitely an over-achiever. I was even more amazed by his temperament as he is just so incredibly kind and sweet. Don’t get me wrong, he is all boy and can be mischievous. If you are dilly-dallying, he’ll find ways to get your attention, such as hunting for treats, putting the reins in his mouth, or picking up chairs, tables, saddle racks, horse vacuums, trashcans, etc. Every day he greets me by whinnying and nickering and eager to get to work. He is the joy of my life.
We began competitive life by attending breed shows. In my opinion, there isn’t a more perfect way to introduce your future competition horse to a life of showing. In his very first show as a yearling, he won everything. I went with the attitude that it was about getting show mileage and the results didn’t matter, but it turned out to be a very fun day. I continued to show Artie in his 2-year-old and 3-year-old years, mainly for exposure and experience, but we earned some very nice accolades in the process.
In 2015, the 4-year-old Royal Tourmalet SPF earned numerous year-end awards and brought home impressive results from big competitions. The pinnacle was winning the 2015 Dressage at Devon, Dr. Robert Miller Memorial Perpetual Trophy for being the highest scoring American-bred stallion. He was also named 2015 Born in the USA Champion Stallion. To earn such prestigious awards at America’s premiere breed show was just overwhelming. I was incredibly proud and overcome with emotion accepting these awards. The judge from his very first show saw promise in a yearling Artie; it was wonderful to have that promise fulfilled as a mature stallion.
Competing Artie as a 4-year-old, he earned scores above 80% in Open Training Level Dressage; in Materiale; and, in the DSHB Mature Stallion division. We also achieved that long held goal of earning qualifying scores for the Young Horse Championships. He did it all, and now I really needed to set more goals.
Then the unthinkable happened in 2016 when Artie suffered a life-threatening stable injury. All that mattered to me was saving his life; and emergency surgery, a month in intensive care, a year layup, a second surgery, another year layup became our reality. In a true testament to Artie’s incredible temperament, he took his new situation in stride and allowed us to help him heal. I cannot say enough good things about the veterinarians and farriers that moved heaven and earth to help my special stallion. The hoof that was nearly removed remains scarred for life, but you could never tell that this amazing horse was at death’s door for many months.
In addition to my spinal surgery, I had four shoulder surgeries and other medical issues that kept me out of riding for many years. As I returned to riding Artie, it rehabbed us both, and reminded me of when I was riding my then four-year-old stallion all over New England. Over time, Artie’s strength and flexibility returned and I asked the expert eye of Olympic Judge Gary Rockwell to watch him. Mr. Rockwell’s assessment was “he’s perfect.” That evaluation provided me the confidence to develop Artie to my newly established goal of obtaining his Stallion Sports Requirements at Prix St. Georges.
To say I agonized over this goal would be an understatement.
Regular check-ins with my Coach confirmed that Artie and I were on the right track. In May of 2022, we entered our first FEI class, and tied for first place. We then won our next Prix St Georges class. In two competitions we earned the five required scores and placings for any additional Stallion Approvals we may seek. I admit that I ride quite conservatively in my tests but that is because I know how far Artie has come, and how devastating his injury was.
Artie is the most balanced horse I have ever owned, both mentally and physically. We are a perfect fit, and it is made even more special by the fact that he came into my life as a youngster. He continues to take my breath away and make me smile.
I have often said that “Artie owes me nothing and gives me everything”, and that remains true. As long as he is happy in his training, we will continue.
Royal Tourmalet is producing lovely foals with uphill builds, strong toplines, powerful hind ends, pure gaits, and wonderful temperaments. I am looking forward to seeing more of his offspring in the competition arena soon.