John Whitaker has reigned as one of the world’s leading showjumpers for nearly 45 years, but of course he couldn’t have done it without the fantastic horses with whom he’s struck up such enduring partnerships.
“I’ve just been lucky to keep finding exceptionally good horses,” John tells H&H with typical modesty.
As he reels off some of the names who have taken him to Olympic Games, World Cup finals and a string of championships, they are like a Who’s Who of show jumping — Ryan’s Son, Milton, Gammon, Argento, Peppermill, Calvaro… the list goes on.
But three in particular hold special memories for John. Among the many greats he has saddled over the years, he credits this trio for being pivotal in his phenomenal career.
John says: “There have been a few emotional wins that really stand out but a turning point in my career was winning the Cock O’the North at the Great Yorkshire Show on Ryan’s Son in 1975. I beat all the big guns and that gave me a massive boost to my confidence and my ego.”
John says: “He came and changed all our lives after Ryan’s Son. He was a brilliant jumper and he just felt special from the very first fence I jumped on him. I’ve been very spoilt with some of my horses and he was like Argento in that he was so careful — when you went up in the air on Milton you felt as though you were never going to come down.”
John says: “Grannusch came to me when I had Milton and I also had Gammon around that time too, so I used Grannusch a bit more as a speed horse. But when Milton retired, I thought I’d try Grannusch in his first grand prix, never really thinking he’d be capable because he’d always given the impression he couldn’t really jump the big ones. But when it came down to it, he could jump alright! He went on to win around seven grands prix and all the big ones, like the CN International at Spruce Meadows in 1994.”
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Don’t miss the exclusive interview with John Whitaker in this week’s showjumping special issue of Horse & Hound, out Thursday 29 March.