We all love to spot talent. The moment a horse passes by your line of vision and the rest of the world briefly becomes a blur. Your head follows the movement of the equine athlete, and if your brain wasn’t so distracted it would tell your lips to say “Wow.” If that moment happens twice a year then it has been a good year on the superstar spotting front. Exceptional horsepower is exactly what it says on the tin, an exception!
At EquiRatings our job is to quantify talent. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. While safety and high performance takes our analysts and coders down some very complex algorithmic routes, it is sometimes more appropriate to keep things relatively simple and just let the numbers do the talking!
What prompted this talent search was my teammate’s quest to hold on to the horse of a lifetime that he produced to take a top ten finish at the Olympic Games. Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift face the exact predicament that I faced twelve months ago. Talent attracts cheque books, and cheque books put children through school.
That’s reality, but Jonty, who in this case is not the owner, has turned himself inside out to hold on to the superstar and has launched a crowdfunding campaign. My €100 won’t get him too far along the road, but putting the EquiRatings spotlight on the situation might just prompt a few more pennies to go in the right direction.
My search was simple. Seven years of international results (2010 to 2016). I wanted to know every horse at the age of 10 years or younger that had ticked the following boxes in a single season:
- At least 4 international appearances at three-star and above
- At least 1 appearance at four-star level
- Maintained a dressage average of 45 penalties or lower
- Maintained a 100% clear cross country jumping record
- Maintained a 50% or higher clear show jumping record
The search yielded just 12 results from the seven years! Consistent, talented youngsters that had reached the top level.
Two horses ticked the boxes in 2010. The first was Cool Mountain ridden by William Fox-Pitt. They won the Kentucky CCI4* and took the individual silver medal at the World Equestrian Games later that year at the same venue. Not a bad start!
You may have heard of the second horse from that year, La Biosthetique Sam FBW. He won the WEG that year, and the Europeans the following year, and the Olympics in 2012, and Burghley in 2015, and Badminton in 2016 … oh, and the Olympics again in 2016. Yep, I think this search is on to something!
2011 was a quiet year. Just one youngster got the green light; his name is Opgun Louvo. This boy is the only horse to tick the search criteria twice, with his Olympic medal winning effort in 2012 also meeting the required standard. He went on to become the individual gold medallist at WEG 2014 and picked up individual medals at both the Luhmühlen and Blair European Championships. His medal haul weighs more than a 1985 laptop!
2012 saw another Fox-Pitt horse join the list, this time Lionheart, who was a part of the team silver medal that same year. Tragically, he is the only horse that isn’t still with us and he never really had a chance to show us his full potential.
2013 fired a blank, but 2014 produced the largest crop of young talent to appear at the top level in a single season. Belgian rider Karen Donckers produced two horses in the same season with both Lamicell Unique and Fletcha van’t Verahof producing the crucial numbers. The latter was fifth at the WEG that year, and between them the pair have notched up ten international titles, including most of Europe’s key three-star events.
The other two graduates of 2014 were Ingrid Klimke’s SAP Escada FRH, who went on to produce a sensational four-star win at Luhmühlen the following year with a finishing score of 32.7, and Michael Jung’s second superstar fischerRocana FST, who has joined a very elite list of horses by winning the same four-star three times! Two wonder mares!
In 2015, we were back to just one superstar, our fourth and final mare in Faerie Dianimo. She finished runner-up to Escada in Luhmühlen, just an agonizing 0.1 of a penalty behind her fellow A-lister. The same season saw Michael Jung produce a stunning victory at the Blair European Championships, and the following season the same horse, fischerTakinou, stepped up to four-star and joined the elite list. So that’s 11 of the 12 results accounted for. A star-studded collection of talented horses that have dominated championships and the world’s major events over the past decade.
The horse that completes the 12 is of course the aforementioned Cooley Rorkes Drift. Looking at the company that this boy is in means that there is likely to be one hell of a future ahead of him. If any of you reading this want to tip your cap to the gentleman and talented horseman that taught this horse everything he knows, then please follow this link.
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