The Quality Pursuit of Heather Boo and Divertimento to the High-Performance Stage

Written by Betsy LaBelle - In Dressage - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

This year has been a steady climb for Heather Boo and Divertimento aka Timmy, a 15-year-old gelding (Di Versaci x Ferragamo). The duo won the Grand Prix Amateur Adult division at the USDF Regional 3 Championships with a score of 67.85% at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in October. The highly disciplined Heather said, “I’ve spent the entire summer doing thousands of transitions.” The pair has spent the year getting to know each other. “Timmy has become a really good friend in a very short period of time,” Heather smiles gratefully.

A physician who practices at Delray Medical Center, Dr. Heather Boo has spent the last several years adeptly learning to balance her work with her rise in becoming a world-class dressage athlete. For the 2016 season, Heather competed in the CDI Grand Prix dressage arena with her own horse, Liberty Light (Livingstone x Pion) at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival.

Heather owns a privately run training facility, Three Bays Farm in Loxahatchee, FL with a 6-stall barn where she and Divertimento train daily together. Since purchasing the horse in January, she has steadfastly dedicated herself to the training with Divertimento and a couple other of her developing horses. With busy schedules and travel, Heather must sustain a team approach to training that works. With the help of Evi Strasser, Chris Von Martels, and this past summer and fall with Neve Myburgh, Heather continues to pursue better scores at the highest level step-by-step. With her medical background it comes as no surprise that Dr. Boo has an interest in avidly supporting the Para-Equestrian Division. She has recently sponsored up and coming rider Laura Hall for the Canadian Team in the 2017 CPEDI on Heather's 11-year-old KWPN gelding Boo Sinclair (Sir Sinclair x Onward O'Crimson) and more recently with eight-year-old Oldenburg mare Odessa M (Christ x Ophelia) in Tryon, North Carolina also owned and trained by Boo.

Heather grew up with the daily rigors of ballet technique successfully passing an audition in high school to dance in a top school in England. "Moving to England was something I wanted to do for myself," she shared. "I wanted to be a ballet dancer. That was my passion, and I loved being expressive and artistic in that specific platform." Arduously embracing the rigors of training, she developed a still and strong posture which in ballet is ironically referred to as "self carriage." Through ballet she learned how to push her limits. "To dance at that level is a lot of body control, flexibility, coordination and heavy training. I was always practicing. I couldn't even walk across the kitchen without a couple pirouettes." She noted how it has helped her riding. "All that performing has helped me because I am not afraid when I sort of 'go on stage' to ride a dressage test. I don't find that piece intimidating. You warm up, and you get one shot to make that performance work."

But after some time, it became apparent to her that ballet was not the life she wanted to pursue at all. "We were pretty hard on ourselves and ballet was tough on our bodies. I saw many dancers chain-smoke and develop eating disorders. I did not want to be that way or have my whole career revolve around what would happen if I accidentally tripped and rolled my ankle in a parking lot one day. To be a great dancer, you cannot take time off. There is an old quote that says, "if you don't practice for one day you know it. But if you don't practice for two days, everybody knows it." She laughs, "I remember teachers telling us never to ride horses because it will ruin your turn out."

Heather's family motivated her to become a physician. "It was something my parents wanted for me. I have three brothers who are physicians and I like the idea of having a challenge and stability. It was a tough 16 years of postgraduate education for me but my parents repeatedly promised that someday I would be glad. I didn't believe them until it actually happened." Heather received her Medical Doctor degree from West Virginia University School of Medicine and has been in practice full-time ever since. She currently serves four large hospitals, trauma and stroke centers. 

For Divertimento, trained by Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén to the Grand Prix level, it was decided in 2016 by owner Antonia Ax:son Johnson to open the opportunity to Chris Von Martels to try to secure a Canadian spot in the Rio Olympics. After the pair came very close to qualifying, Antonia, Tinne and Chris decided to sell the horse and Heather quickly became the ideal next rider. When asked what it’s like to work with such a powerful horse, Heather replied, “Yes, the power is there all the time and it’s a constant surprise in every step, even the small ones. It isn’t just in the extensions and big steps. It’s there in the little things too. I spent the entire summer doing the transitions. You would think that with a horse like him I would go out and do all the fancy things and do the tricks but, no, I have spent days and days just working on the transitions again and again, over and over. I wanted to know how to keep that much power under control.” She continued, "This work is physically challenging for me. I actually signed up for a fitness and nutrition coach to help me develop the necessary stamina." 

On her partnership with Timmy, "Deep down inside all of us there is a real truth underneath everything we say, the real truth lives there and that's where I believe in the two of us," she said. In the process of preparing an outstanding Grand Prix Freestyle with top Dressage Musical Designer Tom Hunt, Heather Boo and Divertimento will certainly be ones to watch.