Secret Lives of Horses: Indigo

by Ann Jamieson

Indigo at 24 in retirement in Aiken

Margie Goldstein-Engle fell in love with Indigo the moment she rode him. In fact, he was one of her favorite horses of all time.

An icon of the show jumping world, Margie is based at her Gladewinds Farm in Wellington, Florida. She has represented the United States internationally countless times, won over 220 Grand Prix events and was elected to the Show Jumping Hall of Fame. She also won team silver at the 2006 World Equestrian Games, as well as individual and team medals at two separate Pan American Games.

Margie first learned about Indigo from a longtime friend, the horse dealer Willy van der Ham. She’d known and dealt with Willy, who is based in Holland, for over 30 years. 

Indigo, a 2000 Dutch Warmblood gelding, was born and raised in Australia and was owned at the time by David Dobson, a man who had worked for Willy, and was a top international competitor. David Dobson was in the middle of a divorce, and his wife had ridden and shown Indigo. As a result of the divorce, the horse was for sale.

Margie was always on the lookout for special horses, and she knew that Indigo was one. The horse had plenty of Thoroughbred in him, and at David’s barn, spent a lot of time outside, perhaps, as was often the case in Australia, even lived outside. For Indigo, that would have been particularly appropriate. “He has more energy than any horse I ever had; he never runs out of energy,” laughed Margie.

 Margie was in Europe trying horses when she heard Indigo was for sale, and planned to fly to Australia to try him. But things kept coming up, and Margie never made it there.        

Finally, since she trusted Willy, and Willy trusted David, they worked out “a very good deal” for her to buy Indigo without a trial.

She wasn’t worried; Margie had bought other horses from Willy without trying them. And even if Indigo couldn’t be a Grand Prix horse, she had a “Plan B.” Because of his consistent results, she figured he could be a great junior or amateur horse. That would give her an out if she needed one.

David accompanied Indigo all the way to the United States. “He was really great!” Margie said. “He traveled with the horse all the way from Perth to Sydney.” David rode Indigo at every stop. Yet, when he arrived, Indigo was still wild. He seemed to feel the three weeks of travel was nothing more than a vacation. Instead of being tired, he was refreshed. He was also not impressed with Margie’s potential plans for him to be a junior’s or amateur’s mount. He was exuberant; competition was in his blood and he was all in for the win.             

Fortunately, those traits fit perfectly with Margie’s fierce competitive nature. She realized after the first ride that he was just what she wanted for herself. “From the minute I rode him I loved him! He had great balance, and he was very animated on the flat.”

Starting him in the 1.35 meter jumpers, Margie moved up to the 1.40 meter in Wellington, and by the end of the 2010 Florida circuit they were competing in the national Grand Prix.

“He always tried his best to go clean, but he was a lot of work to get to the ring,” said Margie. He wasn’t spooky; just high energy. Margie says she loved to ride him, “He felt like he was floating at the trot, barely hitting the ground as he moved. He was very enthusiastic about everything. He loved what he was doing!”

Indigo proved to be such a great horse for Margie that they scored team positions all over Europe and the United States. Some of the placings they earned included podium finishes in Nations Cups at Aachen, LaBaule, and Rome, and tying for the win at the London Olympic trials in Wellington, which featured massive fences and multiple rounds in one weekend.        

Winning World Cup qualifying classes in Syracuse, New York and at the Pennsylvania National were also memorable. The wins “were all very special in different ways and in all different types of venues,” she says.  “He just had so much heart and always tried to do his best. . .

“He was amazing. He wasn’t a huge horse, but he looked bigger than he was. Everyone thinks I look for these huge horses but I really don’t,” Margie says. “He was probably only 16.1 and he kind of grew when he went in the ring. He was just built right: compact and uphill. His hind end was always under him, There was nothing he couldn’t jump, and I don’t know how many World Cup qualifiers he won.”

Once Margie realized Indigo was a legitimate Grand Prix horse she syndicated him to several owners while still retaining ownership under her own Gladewinds Farm.

“The owners really enjoyed him. They traveled with him to Europe. It was nice: it gave everyone a horse to come and watch at the highest level. He always tried his heart out. He was compact so he was easy enough to ride in small rings like Harrisburg and Syracuse, where he won World Cup qualifiers, but he was great on a big field like Aachen as well.”

Margie compares him to the Eveready bunny. “Even as he got older he was never quiet. He never lost that enthusiasm and his energy and zest for life. Bernie [Bierget Maier, his groom] had to watch who was behind her when she jogged him because he would always leap in the air and kick out . . . He’s got a huge heart and he was the type of horse when you were at a championships or someplace like the trials, and all the other horses were starting to get tired from all the rounds, he just got better.”

Although he was still going strong in 2020, Margie felt he had earned the right to retire.

“He was 20 and still sound, but I didn’t want to make him keep doing things. He had done so much in his life for so many people.”

Initially, he stayed in work at home in Florida, where he turned out to be a good babysitter for some of the youngsters. But after a few years, Margie sent him to live with Jane McDonald and her husband Cameron McLeod at their farm in Aiken.

“Bernie knows Jane, and said she takes great care of the horses,” says Margie, noting that it’s hard for a horse to be retired in Florida where the summers are so hot. “Bernie and Jane keep in touch and I get to see pictures of him.”

Jane says in retirement Indigo is “easy-going and unassuming. . . He loves his carrots and peppermints. He’s very easy to deal with; there’s no drama with him. If you go in the tractor to put the bales out he follows you around eating the hay out of the tractor bucket.”

Indigo’s best friend is another retired jumper, Moon Doggie, and the two spend most of their days hanging out together in the run-in shed. “They just kind of hang out and eat, and stand around when I go out to groom them. They are no longer interested in staying in the barn, they want out!” says Jane.

Indigo is also attached to Jane’s Jack Russell puppy Olive. When Indigo and Moon Doggie are eating, Olive will come over and join them at the meal. Indigo looks at Olive and seems to say “Oh, you’re a small horse. So it’s okay.”

“They’re all out there just living the life, just hanging out,” says Jane. It’s a well-deserved retirement for a horse that did so much.

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.