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Nancy Chapman and Acrobatt Soar to New Heights in 2023

Twenty-two years after her first Congress win, Nancy Chapman discusses how she came to find Acrobatt and her big year with him at the age of 73.

Most of us get into showing for the love of the horse and the spark of the dream to win big. Nancy Chapman is no exception.

At the age of 73, twenty-two years after her first Congress title, Chapman returned to the All-American Quarter Horse Congress winner’s circle with her beloved gelding Acrobatt. We spoke with Nancy about this dream come true, which took a little luck, a lot of work, and one special horse.

A Lucky Find

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Finding Acrobatt was one of those “right place, right time” stories.

Chapman explains, “I had taken my former horse, Lopin So Lazy, to Sea Ridge Farm in Wellington, Florida for training around Congress time in 2021. I was living in Nashville and Patty Vatterott graciously allowed me to keep my living quarters trailer on site so that I could stay on the property when I came down for lessons.”

“As a part of my morning routine, I would take my dog Truman for walks along the paddocks and watch the horses enjoying their turnout time. One morning, I saw a gelding that really caught my eye in the turnout. He was running and bucking and was just a stunning animal. I needed to learn more about him.”

Chapman asked Vatterott about him and learned that his name was Acrobatt (aka “Batman”) and he was a young horse in training that was owned by Debra Craig. Chapman had known Craig from years in the industry and she was curious to learn more about Batman and Craig’s plans for him.

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After watching Patty’s daughter ride around on Batman, Chapman knew she had to have him. “It’s strange, but I just get this feeling that’s hard to explain when I find a special horse. It’s like lightning and it’d hit me before with a number of my past show horses and I felt that same excitement watching Batman.”

The Stars Align

Vatterott told Chapman to speak to Craig directly. So, she called Craig with high hopes to make an offer on Batman.

“Deb indicated that she liked him and didn’t have any plans to sell him at the time. Of course, I understood and I told her that, if she ever decided to let him go, I wanted to be first in line for a chance at him. She graciously agreed, and that was that.”

About six weeks after her initial inquiry, Craig gave Chapman a call. “Deb called me in February 2022 and told me that she wanted to get more seriously into her breeding endeavors and didn’t have a place for another gelding in her program. She said she was giving me first dibs on Batman, as promised, and I jumped at the opportunity.”

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Chapman chuckles, “I was ready to buy him then and there, but Deb said she wouldn’t do it without me riding him first and getting him vetted. So, I rode him around, got him vetted, and we went out to lunch together and made a deal. He was mine two days later, in February of 2022!”

Putting In Work

Shortly after purchasing Batman, Chapman decided to send him to Nick and Carmen Mayabb in Ocala. “My goal with Batman was to find success in Trail and Western Riding and I wanted to learn to ride the Trail in a more pleasure-like style that was lifted, soft, and in a beautiful frame. I wanted to strengthen Batman’s topline and reach, and I felt the Mayabbs were the perfect fit for us.”

It didn’t start pretty. “I first rode Batman in front of Carmen at the Venice Circuit so she could see where we were at and it was awful. It may have been my worst ride on him ever,” Chapman laughs.

“I was so nervous and he was still very green. She stopped me mid-ride and said, ‘Ok, tell me what you think you’re asking him to do.’ I explained that I wanted him to lift, move off my feet, and sit back on his hindquarters more. And she smiled and said, ‘You’re thinking all the right things, but you’re talking to him like he’s in college and he’s still in grade school. He doesn’t have those buttons yet and doesn’t understand you.’”

Carmen asked Chapman why a woman of her age wanted such a young, green horse. Chapman replied, “I don’t have a place to retire an older horse and I worry, if I buy something older that’s ready to go win, I will spend all my budget and it won’t last. Then I’ll still need time to learn to ride it. I typically take time to bond with my horse and I was worried, at my age, by the time I was ready to go, a more aged horse would be done and unsound without my ability to keep and retire it.”

Chapman and the Mayabbs decided on a plan where Nick and Carmen would build Batman’s foundation in the Open Junior Trail with the intention of making him Chapman’s future Select horse. Chapman would go to the shows as their cheering section in hopes that she could ride and learn along the way. Turns out…that would happen much sooner than Chapman ever anticipated.

Dream Come True

Just three short months after joining the Mayabb’s program, in June of 2022, they took Batman to the Premier for his second show in the Trail. He had limited showing as a three-year-old, but unfortunately contracted strangles later in the year, which caused him to miss the 2021 fall majors.

Chapman expected that Nick would show Batman in the Trail at the Premier and she would be there to root for them. However, after her first practice at the show, Nick told her, “I hope you brought your chaps!”

Chapman ended up showing Batman in the Select Trail, winning under all three judges on the first day and placing third, which resulted in them being the Select Circuit High Point Champion in their first show together.

They had a few bobbles during the 2022 season as they learned more about each other and Batman got more broke. They ended up showing in the Select Trail at the 2022 AQHA Congress. They placed 12th and Chapman considered it great “practice” on the biggest stage to prepare them for the 2023 season together.

And what a season 2023 was. “This year, we didn’t do as well in the Select classes overall, but we won in the 4-5-Year-Old Non-Pro Trail at the Premier this year and were the Reserve Select Champion at the NSBA World Show.”

“Then, my dreams came true when we won the 2023 Congress L2 Select Trail and had the high score in the L3 Select Trail. We also won the Non-Pro 4-5-Year-Old Trail the next day.”

“I was on cloud nine!” Chapman exclaims. “I had the blessing of winning the Congress in my rookie year in 2001. I’ve been chasing that high ever since and, twenty-two years later, I won with Batman. It was such a special moment.”

“Nancy and Batman are honestly the perfect team,” Nick Mayabb laughs. “They are both very quirky in their own way and it works out perfectly. He needs to be fired up sometimes and she needs to calm down. So, most of the time, it’s a good combination where they meet in the middle.”

One Special Horse

It takes a special horse to have such a special moment and Batman is just that.

“Batman is my unicorn. He is my Trail savant,” Chapman gushes. “I’ve had a lot of injuries and orthopedic issues, including a broken neck from my hunter days, so I need a horse that doesn’t jar me too much. This requires a horse with good rhythm and cadence and so, when I saw him moving in the paddock that first time, I knew I could sit him. He doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable when I’m riding him. He’s very easy over the ground.

“He is simply a very special horse. He loves Trail. He’s interested in it. He’s very conscious of his surroundings. He likes to know what’s going on around him, not in a nervous or fearful way, but in a curious way. He knows where his feet are and I think he finds the obstacles to be a fun challenge. He’s an honest, ‘Steady Eddy’ horse without being a deadhead and I think that’s what makes him so good,” Chapman explains.

To top it off, just when things seemed they couldn’t get any better, Nick capped the year by winning the Junior Trail at the AQHA World Show in November.

He expands, “I’ve never trusted a horse like I do Batman. You can show for broke every day and he still comes in and is as honest and willing as they come. I think he truly loves his job. He is best a little fresh when he has the most expression. That was hard to trust in the beginning, but now I know it just means he’s ready.”

What Dreams May Come

My future plans are to have one heck of a good time!Chapman exclaims.

I plan to continue showing in the Select and Nick will show in the Senior Trail. We also hope to add the Western Riding this coming year. I’d like to have a second class, whether it be Western Riding or Horsemanship, but Trail is my thing.

“This whole experience has just been unbelievable for me,” Chapman smiles. “Never did I ever imagine a year like this. As we speak, Batman is leading the nation in Open Trail. So, we are going to take him to Tampa in hopes he will hold onto that title.”

***

I just hope people who read my story are encouraged to pursue their own dream. My dream was 22 years in the making and I’m 73 years old. I want people to know, you are never too old to dream…you never know when those dreams will come true!”

CLICK HERE to view Nancy and Batman in the December issue of GoMag.


About the Author: Megan Rechberg is a World Champion pleasure horse enthusiast who works as a full-time mom, part-time litigation attorney, and owner/operator of Bred N Butter Equine Management – a company that focuses on social media management for stallions, consulting, and sales and breeding contracts. She currently shows her APHA yearling SmoreThanAPrettyFace under the guidance of Double A Performance Horses.
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