In our latest episode of an exclusive new online series, Horse & Hound catches up with leading event rider Gemma Stevens about her up-and-coming new rides, how her Chilli Morning clone is progressing, what advice she has for young riders and why she’s heading off to Las Vegas…
Which horses is Gemma Stevens most excited about right now?
There’s Chilli King, he’s an eight-year-old and a full brother to Chilli Knight, who won Bicton five-star. I think Chilli King’s got as much ability if not more, he’s just taking a bit longer as he’s quite a big horse. I can see him being a top five-star horse in the future so we’re all pretty excited about him. We’re taking it steady, hoping to do maybe a three-day abroad this autumn. We take each event as it comes with him, but there’s no doubt he’s got a very exciting future.
And Cooley Park Muse, he’s seven this year and only started eventing this season, but he’s come on so well and came second in the two-star at Cornbury. He’s lovely and we’ve got a syndicate of fantastic new owners in with him too.
How are the Chilli Morning clones getting on?
There are three clones and they are now six years old. There’s one with Julia Krajewski, one with Alex Hua Tian and I have one. My one Chilli Morning IV (Quattro), has been going really well this year. He started at BE100 this year learning his job, then he’s done some novices – I think he won a couple. He did his first two-star at Cornbury Park at the weekend in the six-year-old class, finishing ninth, then we’re heading to South of England two-star.
He’s doing really well, he’s very like Chilli Morning – probably a bit more colty, more stallion-like, than Chilli was, but then again, I didn’t know Chilli when he was a six-year-old, so it’s hard for me to compare. We have to manage him as a stallion, although I know the other two clones are a little less like that. I know Alex’s one isn’t like that and Julia’s one is kind of in the middle I think. Julia’s has won a young horse two star class in Germany. Alex’s is a bit more behind but going well. I’m glad I haven’t pushed him, it’s more about his future than what he does as a six-year-old.
They say you never stop learning with horses – what is the last thing Gemma learnt?
It is so true – we never stop learning. I think every horse is different and you learn something new about them every day. Personally, I think the minute you think you know everything you should give up.
Certainly, in the past I have made mistakes with horses, though not so much recently. I’ve realised there are lots of things I would have done previously that I wouldn’t do now because I’ve grown up. I know that there is always another day and there’s always another event. Sometimes it’s better to wait and not to be in a rush.
For example, with the Chilli King horse I can see such a big future with him and he’s such a good horse, but I really haven’t rushed him. I mean, he’s only done a few intermediates and a three-star this year – I’ve never once pushed him and I think I will reap the benefits in the end. One thing I have really learned in the last few years is that actually they are a long time at the top and it’s better to take a bit more time getting there than rushing them when they are young and overdoing it.
What is Gemma Stevens most looking forward to away from the horses?
We are going to Vegas in a few weeks time for a wedding. I am a bridesmaid for one of my really good friends who lives out in Florida, Justine, and her soon to be her husband, Chris. My husband is also his groomsman. I feel this wedding is going to be a lot of fun.
Which horse is the biggest character on the yard right now and what makes them so?
Chilli’s Jester is a complete and utter comedian in every way. He is always doing silly things like bronking around his stable or playing with the horse next door. He does super random stuff too, like licking the wall, and he’s a real handful to handle. He’s got a major sense of humour and thinks it’s really quite funny to leap about and generally behave quite terribly. But he’s not nasty in any way, he is a really sweet horse.
What is Gemma Stevens’ go to training exercise right now?
I do like to use pole work a lot, trot poles, canter poles. Even walk poles. I find it helps to keep the horses interested and also the humans interested. It’s a really nice addition to flatwork so it’s my go-to.
What advice does Gemma have for younger riders coming up?
You’ve got to be ready to work really, really hard your whole life. And be ready to deal with disappointment and be prepared to think that there is also another day and it is okay to not always be brilliant. Sometimes it goes wrong and it is actually learning from that, picking yourself up and being a strong person and moving forward, that can make you even better in the long run. Always make the most of the good times too, because they actually don’t come along that often.
Anything new at the yard?
We had some lovely new owners come in with the Cooley Park Muse horse at the beginning of the year – they are the Rex Syndicate. They are lovely and it’s really nice to have some new faces and the horse has gone really well this year, so we are pretty excited about him.
Gemma’s husband proposed to her at the end of a five-star last year – how romantic!
It was very surprising! And so exciting. It kind of sums him up really. The wedding was amazing, I kind of wish I could do it again –it feels a long time ago now.
What does a typical day off look like in the Stevens’ household?
Ah, well, wouldn’t one be nice! I mean this time of year that rarely happens if I’m honest. If I can get the odd half day here and there, I’ve been trying to spend time with my little niece when I can – she’s turning into a proper little human now, which is very cute. And it’s nice to just have even an afternoon walking around the beach.
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