‘He has so many quirks’: meet Tobago Z, Daniel Deusser’s new Rolex Grand Slam contender

  • Germany’s world number five Daniel Deusser landed the Rolex grand prix at The Dutch Masters on Sunday (13 March) to reignite his Rolex Grand Slam dreams, this time with Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z. Daniel also won a leg in 2021 at CHIO Aachen with Killer Queen Z.

    Riding the 14-year-old stallion, Daniel topped a competitive 12-strong jump-off by just 0.13sec from Harrie Smolders on Monaco. This is just the latest accolade in an extensive list of accomplishments for Daniel and Tobago Z (by Tangelo VD Zuuthoeve out of Whoopie C, by Mr Blue) but, says his rider, while he’s almost unbeatable in the ring, he’s a completely different horse at home.

    “He’s not at all impressive and very lazy, you’d actually doubt if he had enough blood or scope to jump a big class,” Daniel tells H&H. “But at shows he jumps one clear round after another.

    “Stephan Conter [of Stephex Stables] bought him as a seven-year-old and our rider Jonna Ekberg mostly rode him in smaller classes to get him going. He didn’t want to touch any poles and he had lots of scope, but his lazy attitude was even worse as an eight-year-old so we didn’t expect that one day he’d be jumping the best grands prix in the world.

    “With most young horses you have to work on rideability and a lot have problems shortening their stride, but with him it was the opposite – I had to teach him to jump forward and give him confidence,” reveals Daniel. “He started jumping bigger classes at nine but aged 10 he gained a lot of confidence, everything felt easier and he had one grand prix result after another; that’s when I thought he’d be a star.

    “People are surprised at how small and compact he is when they meet him, but he has a great mind – he wants to jump clear and he’s a great fighter. There seems to be no limit to how big he can jump and it’s an unbelievable feeling.”

    Among their other greatest achievements are the CSI5* Rolex grand prix, Florida (March 2021), CSIO4* grand prix, Florida (March 2021), team silver at the European Championships (August 2019) and the Bordeaux World Cup qualifier (February 2019).

    ‘He’s like my number one child’

    According to his devoted groom Sean Lynch, Tobago Z keeps him motivated every day.

    “He and I are inseparable, so much so that if he was in a fire and so was my boyfriend, I’d get Tobago out first!” says Sean. “He’s like my number one child. But I didn’t really like him in the beginning – he was like a feral little farm pony. It was only after Daniel’s Olympic horse First Class died that we suddenly clicked and now it’s only me who can deal with him.

    “He has so many quirks – if you brush him too fast, he panics. He’s a bit funny with his head, too, and the other day I moved to clip his face and it was game over – I had to leave him for 15 minutes and come back.

    “At shows, he knows where people will give him candy so he stops and plants his feet. You’ll be pulling for ages then suddenly he decides he wants to move again. Everything is on his terms. He’s obsessed with fruit – apples, bananas, kiwi and watermelon are his favourite. But the best thing about him is his big heart. He’s very pretty, very photogenic but when he goes in the ring he comes alive.”

    Edith De Michele, of co-owners Scuderia 1918, adds: “We are so proud of Tobago Z and his results with Daniel, they are such a lovely pair.”

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