Tomatillo, clone of the great Badminton and Burghley winner Tamarillo, has moved from William Fox-Pitt’s yard to a new rider.
Melissa Townshend, a pupil of William’s, has taken on the six-year-old stallion, who is owned by the Honn Finn and MW Guinness of Biddesden Stud.
Mr Guinness told H&H Melissa took on the ride because William is too tall for Tomatillo, who stands at 16hh.
“Tamarillo was a bit bigger — it is believed that generally geldings grow a bit bigger than stallions and of course you don’t have a direct comparison usually but in this case it’s more or less the same genes and same environment so it’s interesting he is coming out a bit smaller,” said Mr Guinness.
“He went to William’s yard a year ago and Andrew McConnon rode him in the early stages under William’s supervision, but Andrew went back to America where he has an eventing yard so this is the solution, that Melissa has taken him on.”
Mr Guinness said Tomatillo will be used for breeding and “if all goes well” he will event in future.
“Our main aim was so we could breed from the equivalent of Tamarillo and we’ve got two sets of foals and more mares in foal this year,” said Mr Guinness.
“Tomatillo is due to go to the stallion parade at Addington on 16 February and the sports horse breeding stallion grading in April. These are two activities for him as a breeding horse, then we have our eye on competitions after that.”
Tomatillo is now based with Melissa, who has competed up to three-star level (now four-star under the new FEI ratings), at her parents’ yard in Dorset, and the aim is for her to compete him.
“Everything is going ok so far, but he’s still quite green. It’s awkward in this case because we have high expectations. With a horse of that age, normally you don’t really know how they’re going to go, but we have those expectations,” said Mr Guinness.
“We’ll have to see step by step. In this case we’re confident he has the genes for it, but there is the added difficulty with the hormones.”
Mr Guiness said there are some similarities and differences showing between Tomatillo and Tamarillo.
“It’s possible that Tomatillo has some areas where he’s better than Tamarillo,” he said. “His walk seems to be better; it was never Tamarillo’s best point. The trot is the same – that was a special feature of Tamarillo. We hope his flying changes will be better. Tamarillo’s flying changes were a problem as he wasn’t taught them at an early age because they weren’t in the dressage test – when it was introduced into the advanced test, he hadn’t learnt it as a young horse and it was extra difficult for him.”
Melissa, who has trained with William for more than three years, told H&H she is “very excited” about the ride.
“I’m really grateful to the Guinness family for giving me the opportunity. Sadly Tomatillo came out a bit smaller than the original Tamarillo so Mr Guinness asked William to find someone and he very sweetly suggested me – I was quite shocked when I heard,” said Melissa.
“I had my first sit on him during the first week of January. It was amazing to see how he quickly improved from the first time I sat on him to just before we took him home – credit to the team at William’s. They did an incredible job laying the groundwork.”
Melissa said the aim is to do some events when Tomatillo “is ready”.
“There will be lots of eyes on him and we don’t want to rush him. We’ll try and get him out to some local showgrounds and take him for training,” she said. “It’s about showing him the world, doing some showjumping, cross-country schooling and just opening his eyes. He’s so green, he’s six but is like riding a four-year-old, but he’s so well behaved – we’ve got mares on the yard and he’s very good with it all.”
See pictures of the first foals by Tamarillo's clone — Tomatillo — born at Biddesden Stud
Following the exclusive news in today's Horse & Hound magazine that Tamarillo has a clone, watch a video of the
Melissa said she feels “a bit of pressure” taking on the ride, but will continue to train with William.
“It’s a big opportunity and I definitely don’t want to let anyone down, but I like a bit of pressure. I’m incredibly lucky – these opportunities don’t come up often. It will be a good challenge and I’m excited about it, we all are – the whole team and the connections,” said Melissa.
“I go to William’s usually twice a week. He’s an amazing coach for me and we work well together. I’m very very lucky to have him, he has a wealth of knowledge – I just have to try and keep up.”
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