One of the stars of the Dutch squad’s triumphant performance in the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final last weekend (1-3 October) was the spectacular 17-year-old stallion Carambole, ridden by Willem Greve.
While media questions were naturally directed towards the riders in the aftermath of their victory, 38-year-old Willem announced about his beloved stallion: “I wish he could do the press conference because it’s not about me, it’s about the horse. I owe everything to him.”
Even his team-mate Maikel van der Vleuten was quick to pay tribute to their nation’s equine stalwart, who produced a pivotal clear in Sunday’s final decider.
“If he was a person, he’d be a really nice one!” he said.
Willem and Carambole have been leading contenders on the global sporting stage for over a decade, contesting championships and helping the Netherlands to countless team triumphs, but their journey began 13 year ago when the Holstein son of San Patrignano Cassini was a youngster.
“Being part of any winning team is always good, but for me this is very special because I have had my horse for a very long time – since he was four,” says Willem. “Now he’s 17 and still jumping his heart out every time. We’ve had many successes with him in grands prix – he’s basically made my career.
“It’s very emotional for me that on these days – at this stage in his career and at this high level – he shows that he’s still one of the best horses in the sport,” Willem added. “He deserves a victory like this in the closing days of his career. I’m so proud of him.”
Willem revealed that earlier in the week US rider Laura Kraut had asked him which young horse he was riding – she couldn’t believe it was Carambole.
“But he looks like an eight-year-old!” Laura had said to Willem.
But while Carambole is a phenomenal athlete in the ring and extremely sharp to ride, he’s “more than lazy” back at home, reveals Willem.
“He knows the job – he knows it’s important here in Barcelona with the crowd, whereas a local show just doesn’t interest him at all,” he says with a smile.
“I’ve never met a horse so clever and intelligent in my life. He knows me very well and I know him, he’s phenomenal.”
Willem also said he’d had the option of jumping him in Aachen the previous week, but had elected to save him for the Nations Cup Final instead.
“I talked to Rob Ehrens [the Netherlands team manager] about it, but Aachen is something more than any other show so I made a programme to come to Barcelona instead and he just knows it’s the big one,” he said.
“I don’t want to think about retiring him, so let’s celebrate this victory first. I want him to retire right at the top so let’s see what comes.”
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