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One year aſt er suff ering third-degree burns, Catch a Star and her partner


Caitlin Silliman miraculously conquer their fi rst three-star event.


By Amber Heintzberger


in their very fi rst CCI** at the Jersey Fresh Three-Day Event. In addition, they were aiming to compete at the Fair Hill International CCI*** that fall. Hoku (by Cafi , out of the Thoroughbred Star of History)


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was born in 2000 at Kingsway Farm in Temecula, California. (Incidentally it was the same farm and year that Gin ‘n Juice, Canadian Hawley Bennett-Awad’s 2012 Olympic horse was born.) Caitlin had purchased Hoku in partnership with Brad Johnson in 2010. By all accounts, the mare’s eventing career with Caitlin on board was progressing extremely well, beginning with a fi rst place win at Bucks County Horse Park (PA) in September 2010. Unfortunately, the 2011 Memorial Day fi re at True


Prospect Farm was devastating and altered their plans in a big way. It took a year for the pair to fi nally make the trip to Canada to compete at Bromont. Not only did they fi nish fi fth in their very fi rst CCI*** at Bromont this past June, they also came home with the best-conditioned horse award. Given that Caitlin’s beloved mare sustained the most severe external injuries of the surviving horses in the well-publicized fi re, her comeback was nothing short of amazing. (For full coverage of the fi re, see “Rising from the Ashes,” in the November/December 2011 issue of Warmbloods Today.)


16 September/October 2012


n May of 2011, life as they knew it changed for Caitlin Silliman and her gray Holsteiner mare Catch a Star, fondly called Hoku. The pair was entered to compete at the Bromont three-day event, having just placed second


That Fateful Night On Memorial Day weekend last year, Caitlin and her boyfriend, event rider Ryan Wood, were woken by friend Lillian Heard yelling that there was a fi re in the barn. The three of them were sleeping upstairs in an apartment above one of the barns at Olympian Phillip Dutton’s True Prospect Farm in West Grove, Pennsylvania, a barn which U.S. eventing team member Boyd Martin was leasing. Though they managed to get fi ve horses out of the


blaze, six horses—including Lillian’s mare Ariel—died in the fi re that night. Three surviving horses were rushed the seven miles to University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center: Boyd’s four-star event horse Neville Bardos; Otis Barbotiere, his mount for the 2012 Olympic Games; and Caitlin’s 12-year-old grey mare Hoku. Of the horses admitted that day, Hoku suff ered the


most extensive exterior burns as well as smoke inhalation and lacerations to her face. After Caitlin was released from the local hospital for evaluation, she didn’t leave her horse’s side. And even though the outlook was uncertain, she never lost faith in the mare. That faith in her partner, together with the expert care available at both New Bolton and the Fair Hill Therapeutic Center, helped bring Hoku back better and stronger than ever. Boyd remarks that he has admired Caitlin’s commitment,


heart and no-quit attitude in caring for her horse. “She never had a day were her spirits were down and she always


At top: Caitlin and Hoku at the Jersey Fresh CIC *** in May this year.


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Photo by Amber Heintzberger


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