After Brunello won his third consecutive USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship last August with rider Liza Boyd, many of his fans hoped to see his likeness depicted as a Breyer Animal Creations model.
On Friday June 10 their wish was granted at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina when Brunello and his owners Janet Peterson and Liza Boyd escorted the famous chestnut gelding center ring to unveil his model before a capacity crowd of spectators.
In between the Classic and Handy rounds of the USHJA International Hunter Derby held that evening, Brunello, nicknamed Ike, was honored for his remarkable career, which will now also be immortalized through Breyer.
"There was a slide show and videos of his hunter derby wins and great photos on the Jumbotron screen so everyone could see him perform," said Liza. "I think the spectators were really into it, and some had come that night just to see him. It was such a privilege to be there with him.
"People came up to me and said they were there to support Brunello and so they could one day say they shared a part of that horse’s career," added Liza. "For them, it was really special. I think he’s a horse everyone can relate to and many people knew and love. It was an exciting moment for the sport, and Tryon brought out so many people. Kids came to the barn afterward and played with him, and parents came up and thanked me and told me their kids looked up to us. It was really overwhelming."
The celebration continued on Saturday with an autograph session with Liza as well as a "Meet and Greet" with Ike and his longtime groom Alberto Ramirez.
"I signed many of the Breyer models on their bellies," said Liza with a laugh. "There were lots of cute pony kids that I knew and then some people who were Breyer collectors who drove in just for the signing. Alberto brought Ike to the Pony Pen, where they usually have the pony rides. He was so good. He loved meeting everyone and was such a ham. The smaller the kids the more he loved on them."
Even though Ike can be grumpy in the barn at times, he displayed his true, gentle character throughout the weekend. "He was so calm and such a good boy," said Liza. "Walking down into the ring during the derby I’m sure he was a little confused because he was braided but not competing. But then he seemed to soak it all up. Once again, that horse never lets us down; he stepped up and was the perfect gentleman."