Horse & Rider Q&A: Kristina Papendick on Harley D Zip

Get to know the Western riding horse phenomenon Harley D Zip on a whole new level.

In 2009, Quarter Horse gelding Harley D Zip, already a proven Western riding champion, continued his unstoppable streak of success. He began 2009 with the titles of 2008 American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) All-Around Senior High-Point Horse and Reserve All-Around High-Point Horse under his belt and finished the year as the Amateur Senior, and Youth Western Riding World Champion and Select Reserve Champion. To date, Harley holds more than 12 world championships and is the leading money-earning enrollee in the AQHA Incentive Fund.

Kristina Papendick and Harley in the show ring. | Photos courtesy of Kerry and Kristina Papendick

But there’s more to this horse than a stellar winning record. A Horse & Rider exclusive interview with Harley’s owner, Kristina Papendick, revealed that this champion show-pen performer has his fair share of humorous quirks, longe-line tantrums and sweet moments.

Kristina gives Harley a big smooch at the barn. | Photo courtesy of Kerry and Kristina Papendick

H&R: What do you think makes Harley most special and unique?
Kristina: His personality! And, his presence in and out of the show ring. He’s the first horse you notice when you walk into the barn. Oh, and his forelock! You can’t forget his forelock. Everyone instantly notices it and wonders, “Is that real?”

H&R: Can you tell us more about his special personality?
Kristina: You can talk to Harley and know he’s listening. Harley’s trainer, Jason Martin, did an interview for, and he even talked about it. I didn’t know until I read it that Jason also talks to Harley before he goes into the show ring. It’s so funny, because I do the exact same thing! I knew right away just what Jason was talking about. Before Harley and I go in the ring, I’ll say, “OK, this is it. We’re going in, and we’re going to do well.”

Harley’s right ear will tell you everything. If you’re about to walk in to the class, and he has it cocked to the side, you know that he’s just not “in the game”–there’s something not right. But even if it’s not a perfect go, it will still be a phenomenal go.

Also, Harley’s not a pushover. He demands respect. You have to give him respect to get the result that you want.

Harley takes a rest in his stall. | Photo courtesy of Kerry and Kristina Papendick

H&R: What’s Harley like when he’s not in “show mode?”
Kristina: He loves his peppermints, of course. He’s a puppy dog. He loves to be petted, and he really doesn’t want to do anything else. You can leave his stall door open, and he won’t even try to leave. He just sticks his head out and looks at what’s going on. The barn aisle will be hectic and busy, but he won’t go anywhere, because he doesn’t want to!

But he can be a little fire rocket at times. He loves to get in bucks and squeals on the longe line. He may be 14, but he still has a little youngster in him.

H&R: What’s it like sharing Harley with your mom, Kerry, and your sister, Ali?
Kristina: Harley can really identify who’s riding him, and what the situation is. When it comes to my mom, he, for the most part, is very good. He knows my mom is his treat-giver, so he gives her respect. Harley knows that when Ali gets on, there’s no fooling around.

H&R: How about Jason and Harley’s dynamics? They’ve had some pretty great accomplishments together.
Kristina: When Jason’s on Harley, they have almost a soul-mate connection. There’s something special about Jason and Harley together. It’s amazing to watch them perform because every ride is great–it gives you goose bumps. Jason walks down the aisle way, and Harley’s attitude completely changes. He becomes happy. When Jason walks into the arena, and Harley hears his voice, he changes. I very much appreciate it; it’s so cool.

Brothers and good pals, Harley and Must Be A Detail (left) exchange a quick muzzle hug. | Photo courtesy of Kerry and Kristina Papendick

H&R: How have you kept Harley successful for so long?
Kristina: We don’t really ask a lot from Harley, other than at the big shows. We try to limit the amount of miles we haul to shows with him. If we do take him across the country, it’s only for a couple classes, and he gets the right treatment. He’s really not a high-maintenance horse, but he’s just so special, we try to treat him well.

H&R: Have you ever considered cloning Harley?
Kristina: I’ve thought about cloning, and for now I’m against it. I’ve gone to a few clinics to get more knowledge about it though. From my point of view, Harley’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse, and there shouldn’t be another like him. But I also understand that when people have loved an animal, they want that animal forever. We have Harley’s younger brother coming up as well, and he looks just like him. So I’m hoping that will fill the void someday left by Harley. No matter what happens, for me there will never be another Harley.

H&R: Does Harley have any buddies at the barn?
Kristina: Actually, he gets along well with my hunt-seat horse. Other than that, he’s never had a connection with another horse, up until Lucy (Vital Signs Are Good) stepped into the barn. Every time he sees her, his ears go up, and he’s in a happy mood.


H&R: What are your plans for Harley in the future?
Kristina: I’d like my sister, Ali, to finish up her youth year, and for Jason to keep doing what he’s doing! Harley still loves to compete. I’ve never seen him as happy as he was in the pen with Jason this year. It will eventually be time for him to start slowing down, but he’s still winning and doing great at what he does, and I can’t pull him away from something he loves.

H&R: What is your favorite memory with Harley?
Kristina: Winning the Youth World Show for the first time in 2004. I can see it in my mind like it happened just yesterday. It was the best time of my life. I kept wearing that buckle up until this year, because it was such good luck for me. I tried switching to the buckle I won in 2006 and it never worked. Whenever I would throw on that 2004 buckle, I won with Harley. It gave me good luck.

Another favorite memory would have to be when I got the phone call from my dad after he’d flown down to Texas to get Harley vetted. Dad called me and told me that everything was clean. I was eating pizza at Little Caesars, and I started screaming and jumping up and down and crying. Everyone in the restaurant was looking at me like I was crazy.

H&R: So Harley was your dream horse before you had him?
Kristina: Yes! I appreciate Harley every day. Even now, I have to pinch myself to know that I really have him.

See the February 2010 issue of Horse & Rider to read “We’d Love to Own: Harley D Zip.” To order a copy of this issue, call 877-717-8928 .

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