Secret Lives of Horses: Brighton Heartbreak Run

Champion, teacher, mom

by Nancy Johnson

At age 32, Brighton Heartbreak Run, a Welsh/Thoroughbred pony owned by the Holik family, loves her life of leisure in Aiken. Katie Cardalico Bailey, who cares for the pony at her farm, Silver Bluff Equestrian, has known “Louise” since she was a youngster just starting a show career. 

Eric Caleca, who bred Louise at his renowned Brighton Stud in New Jersey, relays her early background. “I saw her sire, Colwyn Llewelyn, as a weanling at the Royal Winter Fair show. [Toronto] He was spectacular, so I went back to Canada and bought him as a yearling,” Eric begins. Eric bred Colwyn Llewelyn, a registered Welsh stallion, to a Thoroughbred mare named A Bit Quiet, and their filly, Louise, became one of Colwyn Llewelyn’s first foals to hit the ground. “We always called him ‘Louie’, so ‘Louise’ seemed logical for his daughter,” Eric says. 

Louise’s registered name also has an interesting story. “I incorporated the words ‘a bit’ into the names of all A Bit Quiet’s foals, so I named her Brighton Brag a Bit,” Eric explains. But when the Fiorentino family bought her for their daughter Logan, they changed her name. 

“I was 13 when I got Louise as a 6-year-old green pony,” says Logan Fiorentino, who is currently the head coach of Texas Christian University’s equestrian team. “Our farm was called Runaway Farm and we used the word ‘run’ in our ponies’ names. She has a white heart on her right hind gaskin, so my mom came up with Brighton Heartbreak Run.”

Logan was a bit unsure when she tried the pony, but Ross Reisner and Sharon Cole, two well-respected professionals, believed they were a great match, and they were right. Logan showed Louise lightly in 1997 in the Medium Green Ponies. “But 1998 was our big year,” Logan says. On their way to finishing third in the USEF National Standings in the Medium Pony Hunters, the pair was Champion in Zone 2 (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania) and collected ribbons at many prestigious shows including Devon and the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. It was during this time that Katie Cardalico Bailey came to know and love Louise, which turned into a lifelong relationship between the two. 

“Katie groomed for us a lot when I showed Louise,” says Logan Fiorentino. “We had some crazy stories from the horse shows. Like the time when Louise had a 6-inch construction nail in her foot at Devon. We pulled it out, doused it with Betadine, packed it, and went in the ring. She never took a bad step! 

“Louise was always really brave, had a huge stride and so much scope, and was just a really good jumper,” Logan says. “But she wasn’t without her quirks. I was the only one who could touch her ears. She didn’t like my dad or my trainer, Ross Reisner. And she was funny when you got on her – she didn’t want to stand at the mounting block, you had to get on her when she was moving.”

After 1998, the pony was leased out to other young riders in the area and then sold to Erin Duddy who showed her successfully as well. “Erin rode with Sharon Cole which was great because Sharon was the one who had turned us on to Louise,” Logan says. 

Logan and Katie Cardalico Bailey always kept in touch with where Louise was. When Erin Duddy outgrew her, Katie recommended the pony to her friend Renee Holik for her young daughter, Hannah. The Holiks bought Louise in early 2003 when Hannah was 6 years old. “Louise was more pony than she needed at the time, but we wanted Hannah to be able to grow into her and keep her for a while,” Renee Holik says. Hannah and Louise started out showing in the Childrens Pony Hunter division and soon moved up to the Medium Pony Hunters where they competed successfully for several more years.

Renee credits Louise with teaching her daughter about perseverance, patience, and commitment. “Louise is a bit opinionated and could be bossy and aloof at times,” Renee says. “There were moments of her attitude in the warm-up and in the ring that could be frustrating, but she would always rise to the occasion.”

The lessons Louise taught Hannah served her well as she has gone on to win with hunters and jumpers at some of the most competitive shows on the East and West Coasts.

When Hannah outgrew her, Louise retired from the show ring, but was still young enough for a new career as a broodmare.  “Eric was so devoted to his breeding program and knowledgeable of lineage that we sent him Louise to breed,” Renee Holik says, adding, “She was a terrific mom to her babies.”

“Of course, I was thrilled to have Louise back,” Eric Caleca says. “Like all of Louie’s babies, she was incredibly athletic.” He bred her to a British Riding Pony, Romany River Talisman, which resulted in a lovely filly, Brighton Heartbreaker, now owned by River Run Farm. At the 2014 USEF Pony Finals, Daisy Farish piloted the pony to the Reserve Champion Medium Green Pony title in a field of over 70 top ponies from around the country. Louise had a second foal, a colt named Brighton Charter Run. “He showed a little, but his job is mainly to be an all-around family pony. They take lessons on him, drive him, and just love him,” Eric says.

Louise and two other retired ponies owned by the Holiks reside among the show horses at Silver Bluff Equestrian where Hannah’s very first pony, Ghost, and Louise share a large paddock. “Louise is definitely the boss,” says Katie. “We have to separate them at feeding time or else she will vacuum up her food and run over and take his.” 

“When Hannah was done showing Louise, we always promised her that we would take care of this wonderful pony the way she took care of Hannah,” says Renee Holik. “That’s why at 32 years of age she is still with us.” 

Louise the pony at home in her paddock

The Secret Lives of Horses is a regular feature in The Aiken Horse newspaper, telling the story of a retired horse in the Aiken area, 20 years or older. Do you have an older horse that needs his or her story told? Email us!. Secret Lives is sponsored by Triple Crown Nutrition, providing nutrition beyond compare.