December 5, 2013
Show jumpingTuesday, September 24, 2013
My Kingdom for a Horse
A horse is not like a high priced car that most anyone can learn to drive. However, a very good rider on an outstanding mount definitely has an advantage over his/her rivals.
When King Richard III in Shakespeare’s play of the same name desperately pleads “a Horse, a Horse, My Kingdom for a Horse”, I wonder what the good king would think of the astronomical sums being paid today for Olympic calibre mounts.
Professional horseman Ian Tops of The Netherlands just paid a record sum of 11 million euros, almost 15 million dollars, for a Palloubet d’Halong, a 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding. The horse, ridden by 26 -year- old Janika Springer of Switzerland, who has trained it since the gelding was four, placed second in the 1,000,000-euro Aachen Grand Prix at the end of last June, in addition to other outstanding performances.
Tops bought the brilliant jumper for his Australian-born wife Edwina Tops-Alexander, a highly successful international rider, with an eye towards the World Equestrian Games to be held from August 23 to September 7, 2014. The Games are also the first equestrian qualifying event for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Another pricey purchase was Peter Charles’ Vindicat W, British gold medal team horse at the London Olympics last year. The horse is now ridden by Jessica Springsteen, the 21 year old daughter of musician Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen. Although no amount was mentioned, it is estimated the horse cost between 6-8 million euros. Jessica, who has been riding since she was four, also hopes to qualify for the US Show Jumping team going to the Summer Olympics in Brazil. She was the alternate on the US team for London and would dearly love to be on the squad this time.
What do all these astronomical amounts for show-jumpers mean? Simply a question of supply and demand. It is a well-known fact that there are more top riders than there are exceptional horses to be had. That said, a horse is not like a high-priced car that most anyone can learn to drive. It’s a live animal, with particular likes, dislikes, quirks, etc. Just because someone has paid a huge sum doesn’t automatically mean they will become an instant winner. However, a very good rider on an outstanding mount definitely has an advantage over his/her rivals.
In the case of young amateurs, a talented teen-ager with very wealthy parents who can afford to purchase top horses undoubtedly has an edge over other riders in that age bracket who are not as well mounted.
Professionals need sponsors with deep pockets to maintain the stars in their stable. Otherwise they have to sell them to stay in business. In addition, contrary to the adage “strong as a horse”, they are delicate creatures that can all too easily suffer career-ending injuries or lethal attacks of colic, meaning often times it’s better to sell than run the risk of losing everything.
To sum up, these days you need a king’s ransom to be well-mounted.