By Gareth Henderson
READING – When Reading horse trainer Peter Atkins found HJ Hampton in Grantham, NH in 2007, the latter was impossible to ride. Henny, as his fans call him, was afraid of everything and out of control.
“He wasn’t a very happy camper,” Atkins said of the nine-year-old horse. “He’d been a show hunter, and his brain was pretty sucked dry when I saw him.”
Henny was sent to Atkins for training recently, and it didn’t take long for Henny to find his true calling.
“He trained cross-country jumps at GMHA and he just loved it,” Atkins said. “I recognized his talent. We decided to see where he would go.”
And he’s gone far in a short time.
Now, Henny will be competing at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY from Sept. 25 to Oct. 10. He wouldn’t have qualified without the guidance of Atkins, a lifelong horseman from Tazmania. This attention has garnered Henny over 13,400 hits on YouTube, where Atkins posted a video from the 2010 Rolex Championships.
“People have fallen in love with him,” Atkins said.
At Rolex, Henny he brushed shoulders with some veteran competitors. Most horses at Rolex are 14 to 15 years old. Though dressage was a challenge, “he really ate up the cross-country course.”
Henny’s budding competitive career has also made him a YouTube legend, thanks to a hidden camera that Atkins put on his helmet, to record his thrilling cross-country runs. People can hear refrains of “Attaboy, Henny!” as the rising star cleared the most difficult jumps at Rolex with ease. But Atkins cautioned that Henny is still young.
“It’s still a process,” he said. “Every horse is always a process, always learning.”
Speaking of learning, Atkins’ three-year-old son, Owen, is probably Henny’s biggest fan. “He adores my son,” Atkins said.
Owen loves to ride the horse in lead line classes. In fact, Henny steps in as a father figure of sorts – and absolutely has to know whether Owen is all right. If there’s any impression to the contrary, then the priority becomes Owen – no matter what else is going on.
“If Owen starts to cry when I’m doing dressage, my wife has to run away really quickly,” Atkins said.
In fact, “[Henny] told our animal communicator that his most important job was looking after Owen.”
Atkins, 45, was born into the horse industry in Tanzania and now lives in Reading with his wife, Amy Atkins, and son Owen. Peter Atkins moved to the U.S. in 1996, settled in Vermont in 2007, and continues to teach students and give clinics. Atkins first brought Henny to GMHA in 2007.
More information on Henny is available at www.runhennyrun.com.
By Gareth Henderson