‘When he felt the tension, he’d jump a foot higher’: why Monsanta was Michael Whitaker’s horse of a lifetime

  • This week, the legendary showjumper Michael Whitaker has been sharing his memories of one of his greatest equine partners, the all-conquering Monsanta. Among their many achievements, the duo won the Hickstead Derby three times in succession, collected four championship medals and represented Great Britain at the 1992 Olympics.

    While speaking to H&H showjumping editor Jennifer Donald in this week’s episode of the Horse & Hound podcast, Michael reveals what gave the teenage gelding the edge.

    “His attitude — you could take him to a local show and he wouldn’t do anything special, he might even have two down in a 1.20m class,” he says.

    “But he’d always know if you were trying harder. When he could feel that tension in the warm-up he could just jump a foot higher. He was unbelievably careful.”

    When asked to pick out some of his proudest moment with Monsanta, Michael is spoilt for choice but top of the list is the European Championships in Rotterdam in 1989 when the British team won gold and Michael finished with individual silver, behind his elder brother John riding Milton.

    “It was a special moment — I just would have been happier if it had been the other way round!” laughs Michael, who had been leading the competition going into the final medal decider.

    Continued below…

    “There was a very easy oxer before the combination, which was a bit tricky — two verticals coming out — so I just thought to myself ‘Don’t over-ride that oxer’,” says Michael. “That’s what it was there for — so you’d kick at the oxer and it would make the combination more difficult.

    “But Monsanta just touched the back rail of the oxer — I obviously didn’t over-ride it, I under-rode it! But then I lost my concentration to the combination and I couldn’t have ridden it any worse and he jumped it anyway.”

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