Striving for success in showjumping
Breeding the right traits and knowing what to look for will help you meet all those goals
What are top-flight show-jumping riders looking for in a horse and what can breeders do to produce it?
If anyone were in a good position to offer advice, it would be Clem McMahon, who rode Coole Al Clover to Ireland's first ever gold medal at the World Breeding Championships in Lanaken, Belgium, last year.
The chestnut stallion by Aldatus Z (OLD), out of Laural Lodge (AID) by Clover Hill (RID), was bred by Eamonn Kenny from Newline Stud, Attanagh, Co Laois, and beat more than 248 starters to take first place in the six-year-old final.
Since then, the horse has been sold for a price "well into six figures", according to Clem.
Speaking at the Teagasc 'Breeding for the Market' seminar in Charleville this week, the rider outlined the requirements of the modern day showjumping horse:
- Athleticism/Blood -- "Athleticism is the first requirement. Unless the horse can bend his hocks, he is not going to jump at the upper levels," the rider insists.
- Balance/canter -- "These two go hand in hand with athleticism," says Clem. "A horse with good action with his hocks underneath him will be in balance, have better self-carriage and will be easier to ride."
- Scope -- "The horse has to have power, especially in combinations like a one-stride oxer to oxer combination," he claims."You can't have a horse that relies on pace for scope -- where will he get his speed in that combination? It can't be done so he needs to have the power to get over it without speed."
- Carefulness -- "Showjumping courses have small, light poles in shallow cups and safety cups on the back pole that collapse easily," the rider says. "It's not like the old days where the horse could sit on the back pole and it would stay where it was."
- Stride -- "The horse will always be under pressure if he doesn't have a decent stride," Clem says. "He must lengthen and collect easily for the more technical courses that require you to shorten at ease. The rider must be able to adjust for an open stride or a backward one or else the course builder will catch you out."
- Temperament -- "Temperament is not as important for the professional rider as the amateur rider, but a very hot horse could cause hassle," he says.
- Technique -- "The Irish are inclined to get too hung up on technique," says the rider. "They tend to get very hung up on the front end and want the legs hitting the belly every time."
"But, to me, too much technique at a young age can indicate a lack of scope sometimes."
Interestingly, the Nations Cup team rider told breeders he would forgive small conformational irregularities or faults, like a small turn or wind, as long as the horse's overall athleticism was good.
"But I do mean small -- not something that goes really east or west," he insists.