Meet the hot-headed mare on the London GCT with a ‘strange’ warm-up regime – ‘She’s a special character!’

  • We all enjoyed a thrilling jump-off to conclude the London GCT grand prix at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on Saturday night (14 August). But while the grand prix victor, Peder Fredricson, joined the prize-giving on his tremendous partner Catch Me Not S and runner-up John Whitaker returned to the ring riding his 13-year-old gelding Unick Du Francport, third placed Belgian rider Niels Bruynseels was seen joining the celebrations on foot.

    The reason? His 13-year-old chestnut mare Ilusionata Van’t Meulenhof (Lord Z x Carthago Z) is so hot-headed that Niels and his team spend considerable time trying to keep her calm and relaxed, which means a lap of honour is out of the question – but so is jumping a practice fence in the warm-up ring. Therefore, Ilusionata enters the ring to jump even a 1.60m grand prix track “cold”.

    “The rider before me, William Whitaker, said never to jump her in the warm-up,” explains Niels of the mare, who is owned by Ludwig Criel. “I thought this was quite strange at first. She has a special character, she’s high in temperament. But I tried jumping her in the warm-up at the first two shows and very quickly I realised it was not the best thing for her!

    “So for her, the best thing is to keep her nice, calm and relaxed and that’s without jumping when warming-up.”

    Niels says of the sister of the great showjumping stallion Emerald: “Instead, we lunge her just outside of the place where there are a lot of horses, a lot of atmosphere and sound. We just try to keep her away from everybody.

    “That’s also why I don’t ride her in the victory gallop and come in instead on foot. That’s the solution for everyone!”

    Niels came to the London GCT after winning team bronze for Belgium in the Olympic showjumping at the Tokyo Games.

    “It’s a different week, it’s a different show,” he says. “I’m really happy with the performance of my mare. She jumped fantastic today for me.

    “We know in this sport that one day you are the winner, one day you are the loser. But I think I turned the button and kept going.”

    The London GCT takes place at the Royal Hospital Chelsea from 13-15 August.

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