‘I thought I’d ruined him’: emotional return to top form for Olympic horse

  • New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell got emotional as he explained that his Tokyo Olympic ride Diachello is back on back on top form after fears he “had ruined him”.

    Jesse and the 13-year-old Diarado son delivered a stunning dressage test at Pau five-star to score 26.9, and slot into fourth place ahead of today’s (28 October) cross-country. The event is the gelding’s return to the top level.

    Jesse has produced Danny since 2018, and the gelding made his five-star debut with Jesse at Kentucky in 2021, where they jumped clear across country to finish 11th. The following year they represented New Zealand at the Tokyo Olympics, where they finished 22nd individually.

    But following the Olympics things were not smooth sailing and Jesse noticed a decline in Danny’s performance.

    “To be honest I’m quite emotional about him because when we first bought him and we took him to four-star he was so generous, and he was quiet and easy and everything like that,” said Jesse after his Pau test.

    “And then we took him to Kentucky and he was okay, it was his first five-star, and then I sort of put the pressure on him to go to the Olympics and he just didn’t feel very good.”

    Jesse started veterinary investigations to get to the route of the problem.

    “He’s not the type of horse to show your typical ulcers, but we got him scoped because we had exhausted everything else, bone scan, the whole thing,” said Jesse. “And we found he was riddled with ulcers. We sort of went back to basics with him, and I really thought I’d ruined him.”

    Jesse said Danny “let him train him back up” and they have since returned to form. The pair shone during their Pau test, with the eye-catching gelding looking relaxed in the arena.

    “Every day he feels better. This week he’s been feeling awesome, and I’m really happy,” said Jesse, adding that he was particularly pleased with Danny’s flying changes in the test.

    “With his flying changes where I think he probably would have been uncomfortable in the past we had to be quite conservative, but now he’s really throwing them and letting go. It’s just lovely that he’s feeling happy – that’s the main thing,” he said.

    Jesse is first out on the Pau cross-country course today with his first ride, Jay Jaffar’s 11-year-old gelding Cooley Lafitte, who is making his five-star debut.

    “As pathfinder there’s a lot of responsibility to do a good job so everyone else can see what the track should ride like, so I’m excited about taking on that role with my first horse. He should give me some really good knowledge for how to ride Danny,” said Jesse.

    “They are two very different horses; Danny is quite cold but the other guy’s pretty hot like you saw in his dressage. But they’re both really long striding, so these Pierre Michelet’s distances should be not too bad. It’s Cooley Lafitte’s first five-star but he’s a machine across country, and he jumps for fun so we’ll see if that pays off. It should be a good day.”

    The Pau five-star cross-country gets under way at 11.30am local time (10.30am British time). Check out the cross-country times.

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