‘A born event horse’: what makes Michael Jung’s Badminton-winning ride so good?

  • After clinching the Badminton title on Sunday (8 May 2016), we take a look at what makes Michael Jung's ride La Biosthetique-Sam FBW such a special horse — from his outlook and topline to his limbs and head

    Legendary horses are usually marked by an indefinable presence, something that shouts “look at me”. La Biosthetique-Sam FBW (Sam) doesn’t. Yet his record sets him apart as the most brilliant event horse we are ever likely to see.

    German team trainer Chris Bartle says that what sets the horse apart is his rider, Michael Jung. “It’s 75% Michael, 25% Sam’s heart,” says Chris. “But his heart counts for a lot; he gives it everything. He wasn’t born with exceptional ability, but he tries his heart out.”

    The facts and figures

    16yo, Baden-Württemberg (German warmblood) bay gelding

    Best results

    Individual Olympic (2012), European (2011) and world (2010) gold medals; at CCI4*: winner of Badminton 2016, Burghley 2015 and Luhmühlen 2009; second Badminton 2013; third Kentucky 2015 and Luhmühlen 2015.

    His outlook

    Ginny Elliot, like Michael Jung a three-time European champion, says: “Sam has always reminded me of Priceless [Ginny’s multi-medalled star of the 1980s] but I’m afraid Priceless did not match up to Sam’s near-perfect conformation. “I’m not sure what I can fault — Sam is a born event horse. The way he stands shows his shoulder and back end are ready to move off, with his hocks under and shoulder up in front. This is why he moves well and jumps for fun.”

    His head

    “He has a wonderful head, with an intelligent look about him,” Ginny Elliot says. “Where it meets the neck behind the cheek area there is plenty of space. This helps both in the dressage, for flexion, and the respiratory side as the windpipe has enough room to expand when he’s at full stretch.”

    His limbs

    “His foreleg is well out in front — not too under the shoulder, which should help him to extend,” says Ginny. “His legs look well-built for soundness. He has broad, flat knees, short cannon bones and perfect-length pasterns. He has ample bone and his feet look excellent — neither broad and flat, nor boxy.”

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    His body

    “His topline is excellent from ears to the tail,” says Ginny. “He has a wonderful, sloping shoulder, which denotes a good action. Perhaps he’s a touch short in the back, which might inhibit his range of step, but this is his only slight fault. “He has a deep girth — giving space for the heart and lungs — and a decent length from hip to hock. His second thigh is really strong, with his hocks close to the ground, and his tail is well up in its place. All this points to him being a good, fast jumper. The back end is the engine, and for an event horse he is near perfect in this respect.”

    Don’t miss the full report from Badminton Horse Trials in the 12 May issue of Horse & Hound

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