The Gray Goose and Kim Walnes The Gray Goose and Kim Walnes / photo by Mary Phelps

Unlikely Champion Turned Eventing Legend [VIDEO]

The Gray Goose

He was an unlikely champion.

“He was terribly frightened,” says Kim Walnes who purchased The Gray Goose in Ireland as a six-year-old.

The Irish bred gelding was rigid. He learned to buck and bolt at the same time. That unfriendly combination led to many spills early on for Walnes. Although she didn’t have access to trainers or lessons, she used common sense and always went back to the basics.

The highly self-aware gelding eventually began to trust Walnes. He developed confidence in himself and found his passion – cross-country jumping. “It made his heart sing,” she says.

In 1979, they finished the Intermediate level cross-country course in Lexington. They were the only pair to make the time which turned heads. “People started to take notice,” Walnes says.

Ultimately, that performance earned them a training invitation with the United States Equestrian Team. The pair jetted off to Europe to compete in Europe the next year.

Gray and Walnes continued their high flying journey. In 1981, at Rolex, they placed second, only behind 3-time Olympic medalist James (Jimmy) Wofford. The next year, they clinched the coveted Rolex Trophy and the win.

In 1982, The Gray Goose carried Walnes to an individual and team bronze medal at the Luhmuhlen World Championships.

The pair placed third at the Olympic Selection Trials held at the Kentucky Three-Day Event two years later. They were the reserves for the U.S. Team at the Los Angeles Olympic Games.

In 1985, they placed second at Boekelo helping the U.S. Team secure a first-place finish and they placed third at Rolex.

 

The horse movie Sylvester

People still leave peppermints for The Gray Goose on his grave (left).
People still leave peppermints for The Gray Goose on his grave (left).

The Gray Goose galloped his way into hearts across America on the big screen. Gray and Walnes doubled for the horse and rider in the movie Sylvester. The cross country scenes were taken at the 1984 Rolex Three Day Event. “People still come up to me today and tell me they started riding because of that movie.”

Walnes says The Gray Goose taught her many things, but the most important was, “listen to your horse – do what is in your heart and what your gut tells you.”

The Gray Goose died June 7, 2000, at the age of 30. They buried his cremated ashes at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The Gray Goose is being honored by the United States Eventing Association as a 2012 Hall of Fame Inductee. He joins a list of horse and rider greats that include James Wofford, Michael Plumb, Jack LeGoff, and Custom Made.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) honored The Gray Goose in 2012.

The United States Eventing Association (USEA) honored The Gray Goose as a 2012 Hall of Fame Inductee. He joins a list of horse and rider greats including James Wofford, Michael Plumb, Jack LeGoff, and Custom Made.

 

The Way of the Horse

Walnes enjoys continued success today as an independent horse-human relationship coach. Additionally, she’s a riding instructor, horse trainer, and clinician.

Walnes says a stallion she bred now helps her with her endeavors. Even more significant, Gideon Goodheart is related to The Gray Goose.  You can follow Walnes at The Way of the Horse

 

 

Click Play to Watch Eventing Video of The Gray Goose

Kim Walnes Narrates video by Horse Authority (formerly Rate My Horse PRO)

 

This post was updated in March 2019.