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Clooney 51: from ‘difficult’ beginnings — how it all changed for this champion jumper

The partnership between Swiss rider Martin Fuchs and the galloping grey Clooney 51 is the envy of the showjumping world. Together, they were crowned European champions in 2019, Martin was crowned as the world number one and, after victory in the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva in December, the pair will this year be bidding to become only the second winners of the Rolex Grand Slam after Scott Brash secured the hat-trick back in 2015.

But the 14-year-old son of Cornet Obolensky hasn’t always been the easiest of rides, as his 27-year-old rider — and Martin’s father Thomas Fuchs, who sourced the gelding — tells us.

“In the beginning, he was a bit difficult, but he’s always been a great horse to ride,” says Martin. “When he was eight years old, I realised that he could be a special horse, as he’d often be placed in big grands prix. As a nine-year-old he placed second in a five-star grand prix in Doha. To become the team we are today, we’ve worked very hard on our dressage and his confidence. I try my best to keep him happy and give him the confidence he needs to perform, then in the ring he normally doesn’t let me down.

“Clooney is very careful and clever at the fences; he’s very aware of his surroundings and always knows where the poles are. He’s a very intelligent jumper, with his own style — he doesn’t over-jump and never runs through the fences.

“He can be a little spooked in big grass arenas, which makes things a bit more difficult. Aachen takes place over a whole week, which gives me the chance to get Clooney in the ring a couple of times before the grand prix, which will help us be more prepared. Last year he jumped really well and had clear rounds, however during the second round I didn’t ride so well.”

Thomas Fuchs, Martin’s father and trainer, is a renowned dealer and reveals how they found Clooney as a seven-year-old.

“Over the years, I have built up a network of good friends and great contacts, who, when they see something special, they get in touch,” he explains. “We have also gone to see so many horses — it’s not the case that you find a horse like Clooney every year, as he is such a special horse. You need a bit of luck on your side, which we’ve had.

“At the beginning, when we first saw him, we thought he was a very nice horse, but we weren’t thinking that he was a star. However, when he won the Swiss championships as an eight-year-old, we realised that he was a very special horse with a unique talent.”

Clooney 51 has had a break since competing at the GC Play-Offs in Prague in November, but the pair will be seen during the next leg of the Rolex Grand Slam at the Dutch Masters in March — then the Tokyo Olympics is the ultimate goal.

“We’ve been training hard and preparing so we have a good chance to do well,” he says.

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“Clooney is very good in smaller arenas, so in a way The Dutch Masters will be better for him. We will be competing at a two-star event with Clooney in Holland a few weeks prior to the show in order to be as prepared as possible.

“I have complete faith in Clooney — I know he can win in any arena in the world, in any class. This gives me a lot of confidence, but I’ve not even dreamed about winning the Rolex Grand Slam because it’s so difficult. Anyone involved in our sport knows what Scott Brash has achieved is incredible and the odds of it happening again are so low. Of course, Clooney and I will try our best but who knows what the future holds.”

>> Thank you to the Rolex Grand Slam for the interview. The Dutch Masters takes place from 12-15 March and you can read all about it in the following issue of Horse & Hound.

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