‘Mismatched’ 15hh gelding proves unlikely showjumping success story

  • If you were looking for a perfect showjumping horse, on paper at least, a 22-year-old 15hh “complete nutter” with a “weird mismatch” of breeding wouldn’t immediately stand out as a potential superstar.

    But try telling the diminutive little gelding Sparkling Indulgence that.

    At the age of 22, the Irish gelding is still racking up the red ribbons and his latest victory came at Chard Equestrian in Somerset recently when he and rider Gemma Hallett landed the FMBs Therapy Systems star qualifier in an all-out contest against the clock.

    Just 0.55sec split the top three placings after 18 combinations produced double clears but Gemma and Sparkling Indulgence nailed it to take home top honours.

    “Steele” was bought in Ireland as a five-year-old by Sarah Franklin and he briefly jumped in pony classes; he is by Spring Elegance out of Thoroughbred mare but turned out smaller than expected.

    Sarah had turned him away on her yard when she first met Gemma Hallett through her mother Caroline and, without a suitable rider for Steele at the time, Gemma took the reins. Sarah says they had “huge fun” with Gemma riding him alongside her other horse Wake Up, winning many classes and qualifying for Scope and HOYS.

    “He is still winning at his grand old age, in part because he was not pushed when he was young so had time to mature,” said Sarah.

    Seven years ago, Steele was sold to Mandy Vicary for her daughter Rachel to ride as she came off ponies and the pair racked up many wins, up to 1.30m. Gemma returned to the saddle when Mandy offered her the ride once again.

    “He’s like Peter Pan this horse,” said Gemma. “He comes out and tries so hard and you can turn him up to anything and he’ll answer to the best of his ability.

    “He is still a complete nutter though. I brought him to a C1 show at Chard a few weeks ago and I couldn’t stop him in the warm-up, everyone was just laughing at me! I have a list as long as my arm about this horse and some of the things he’s done!

    “He is a very weird mismatch of bits and pieces, he’s of unregistered breeding and he’s bum high with a giant head and tiny Connemara pony legs – but he’s always been such a winner,” she said. “I’ve always said he might have little legs but he’s got a massive heart.”

    • You can read more from Chard, and plenty more showjumping news, in this week’s Horse & Hound, in the shops on Thursday 17 February.

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