This horse takes free jumping to a new level

Over the years I’ve introduced a few horses to jumping by sending them through jumping shoots. I’ve also had a few horses that would occasionally jump a cross rail or small vertical if turned out in a ring. I’ve never seen a horse that was so determined to jumpg a course after losing its rider.

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Austrian rider banned from competition; highlights bigger issues in show jumping

This video has been making the rounds on social media for the past week. In short, Austrian rider Bernhard Maier, was banned from competition for three months after this round on a Paddy’s Darco, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding. Maier bought Paddy’s Darco earlier this year, ostensibly for his daughter  (now that’s a scary thought).

Paddy's Darco
Bernard Maier’s round on Paddy’s Darco hit the show jumping wall of shame last week.

The round is grim. It’s hard to believe that someone with FEI experience level (Maier’s has competed at this level since 2006) on a horse that has jumped around courses like this before could be so, well appalling. From the very first fence, where the pair crash through (rather than over) the jump, it’s painfully obvious that this pair is having more than just a bad day. It is terrible, scary and dangerous. Certainly not the kind of round that you want to go viral.

The video has sparked outrage. And also some very interesting observations. Most people — myself included — are appalled that the ground jury didn’t put an end to this travesty after the first few jumps. In fact, Maier wasn’t sanctioned until the next day (after the video had gone viral).

A lot people who watch the round blame the poor performance on Maier. Certainly, his aggressive ride only riles up a horse that looks tricky right from the start. His approach of gunning the horse at fences and then getting left behind and hanging on his mouth made my eyeballs bleed.

But the other thing I saw was that a horse doesn’t like his job. Before they’ve even started jumping, the horse starts backing up, unwilling to go forward. This well-bred horse has been bounced around a lot in the past couple of years — five different riders in five countries (Ireland, Columbia, Quatar, Italy and now Austria). That’s a red flag right there. A horse of this caliber doesn’t generally get passed around unless there are issues.  Take a peek at his FEI Record and it’s spotty.

Looking at past videos of the horse jumping around you can see the beginnings of the problems that are in full display with Maier in the saddle: he gets behind the leg, jumps up but not over, then lands in a heap. He fights his rider to the fences, getting flat. And he looks for that escape hatch coming into the jumps. Sometimes, just because a horse can jump, doesn’t mean he should become a jumper.

Here’s the horse at the very beginning of his career, training with Mark Duffy

You can see some of the issues that surface later. This is not an easy horse to ride but he has the scope and the step that show the promise of greatness.

Paddy’s Darco works better with a quiet, tactful ride. There’s some footage of Stephen Moore competing him at the beginning of his FEI career that’s quite nice (although you can see how much the rider influences his performance).

After the video of his round went viral, Maier made this statement to the press.

“Paddy was the best show jumping horse in Ireland as a five-year-old and eventually was sold to the USA. There the horse lost his confidence.”

“We knew Paddy’s Darco was to difficult for her [Johanna Sixt] to ride, therefore I initially took over the reins,” states Maier. “I want to give the horse’s confidence back. Bring it back on an international level.”

“Although the video shows our disturbing round in Wiener Neustadt, I am convinced the work and training is developing positively,” explains Maier.

Is Maier the rider that’s going to turn this horse around. My money says not. One of the best statements I’ve seen about this situation was on the Chronicle of the Horse forums where someone wrote,

The issue with these horses is often people dump so much money into them they literally cannot even conceive of selling them cheap to someone who will take more time and/or do something else with them.

Too many people have spent too much money believing that they are the ones who can tap into this horse’s potential. It’s just a shame that no one asked Paddy’s Darco what he wanted to be when he grew up.

And the patient horse award goes to . . .

While you need to give Rick Wallace credit for “stickability” (for those who don’t compete, if the rider’s feet touch the ground they are disqualified), I think the real prize goes to Ultimate Decision who was very, very patient and understanding while his rider swung around his neck like he was a jungle gym.

I don’t know too many horses that would have been quite so calm.

Do you have any good “stickability ” stories to share? I’m afraid I come off far too easily.

 

Zelda makes me smile

XC school
I haven’t had a lesson in about a year but boy did those eyes on the ground help! Stephie Baer runs a great XC school and the whole experience was a confidence builder.

I love it when your horse makes you look good. You know, when they behave themselves and it looks like you can ride?

I took Zelda for a cross country schooling adventure and she was a star! My expectations were modest. I wanted to jump some small fences, get some eyes on the ground and see if I could get her through the water complex (on some of our Hunter Paces, Zelda has preferred to jump the water rather than go through it). It ended up as a real confidence builder. Since I mostly ride alone, I don’t generally push her to jump much on the trails. Now I know she’s willing and able.

In the water
Zelda didn’t hesitate to walk (and trot) into the water. It didn’t hurt that it was a hot day and the water looked inviting. I was mostly worried that she was going to roll in it.

Zelda walked off the trailer, looked around, and went to work. She figured out that this job was pretty fun and basically, if I aimed her at a fence, she went right over it — straight, willing and without any fuss or bother. Basically, she was a point and shoot type of horse.

As for the water complex? She walked into it like she’d been doing it for years (it was hot and I had a strong feeling that she would lie down and roll in the water if given half a chance). Then trotted through it, leaving a wake that would make a small boat proud, and jumped out up the small bank. The only

Water complex
You can see the water complex behind us, along with some of the jumps. This was a great course where you could pick the level where you felt comfortable. I started small and then asked her for a bit more when I realized she was going to be so good.

time she hesitated was when we jumped down into the water. Can’t say that I blame her as I wasn’t so sure of that myself. In fact, I handed over my cell phone to a spectator in case she launched me. Once she was completely sure I was serious, she was fine!

She even jumped the ditch without a hitch and was looking for more.

You know, I really like this girl. She doesn’t have the springs that Freedom has, but for him, every jump is an event. For her? It’s just part of the adventure and she’s always looking for more.

I left feeling like I could ask her to do a lot more . . . and the next day I incorporated a few more jumps into my trail ride. Then I did the same with Freedom. I guess I really need those eyes on the ground.