Nicki Henley: Veteran Eventer Returns from Tendon Injury for a World Cup Qualifier Win

by Fran Jurga | xx month 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.comWatching the results of the Red Hills International CIC***-W Horse Trial at Tallahassee, Florida this weekend had me scratching my head a bit. There was Mara Dean’s name and she was riding…Nicki Henley? I remember that horse from Rolex, ages ago. Where’s he been?

He’s been in his stall back home in Round Hill, Virginia, as it turns out. Nicki Henley was injured while representing the USA at the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro and Mara gave him more than two years to recover. Tendon injuries can be highly variable in the amount of time needed for full healing, and nothing stresses a tendon more than the life of an advanced event horse.

Nicki Henley started on the comeback trail last fall and now look at him go! And look what he’s wearing!

Mara Dean’s victorious Nicki Henley navigated the World Cup show jumping course in this shanked hackamore.(FEI photo/, used with permission)

The FEI had some super photos, including one closeup of Mara and Nicki Henley after the win in show jumping, where you can clearly see that the 15-year-old Irish sport horse is fitted with a padded cavesson and hackamore–no bit in his mouth–although he is clearly wearing a bridle and bit in the photos of him in dressage and cross-country.

In this day of almost all the horses having their mouths clamped shut with flash nosebands, figure-8s, and who-knows-what in and around their mouths just to steer (or try to stop) them, this photo was like a breath of fresh air. The fact that the hackamore horse was the winner, and that the competition was the first leg of the HSBC FEI World Cup? made it that much better.

“He stays softer all the way through his body [with a hackamore]. When he gets tight, he doesn’t jump as well behind,” Dean explained in an interview on the US Eventing Association web site. “With the hackamore, you lose the steering a bit and that was a bit of a panic in the middle, but he did stay very relaxed.”

For the cross-country and dressage phases, Nicki Henley was fitted out with a bridle and bit. (FEI photo/, used with permission)

Nicki Henley won the Jonathan R. Burton Trophy for the USA National Young Horse Eventing Championship in 2002. There’s a chance that Mara may decide to run Nicki Henley in the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event next month at the Kentucky Horse Park. Stay tuned!

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