Ponies are a rare sight at grand prix, but Charlotte Dujardin’s diminutive protégé is well on his way
12yo chestnut gelding, 14.1hh
Stable name: Tom
Owner/rider: Jayne Turney
Breeder: Rachel Silk
Best results: PSG national champion at 2020 winter dressage championships; inter I regional winter champion 2020; twice advanced medium reserve national champion in 2019; medium restricted national champion 2015; 2013 SPSS young dressage pony champion (ridden by Jayne Turney). Novice open national champion 2014 (with Phoebe Peters); numerous top-10 placings in international pony classes with Jessie Kirby and Charlotte McDowall.
“I’VE bought a pony, he’s a bit wild, so I thought of you.” These were the words of double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin to her friend Jayne Turney back in 2013. Charlotte had been keen to train a pony up to grand prix, but handed the reins of the rising four-year-old Cruz III (Tom) over to Jayne as a project.
“Charlotte putting her trust in me to produce him was a massive confidence boost, a turning point in my career,” says Jayne. “He was really smart then, but we didn’t realise just how amazing he’d be.”
With the help of Samantha Quirk and Ian Cast, Jayne set about taming this sharp and sensitive 14.1hh.
“He is cheeky, so we thought he was going to be difficult to back, but he learnt so quickly,” says Jayne. “I had this instinct he was allowing me to ride him, but I had to be respectful. He was a bit like a mare – I couldn’t boss him around. He’s so athletic that if he does decide to throw himself around, it can be spectacular.”
Within a year, Cruz was crowned Sports Pony Studbook Society young dressage pony champion. He’s since landed national titles through the levels, culminating in the winter prix st georges in 2020.
Although Jayne usually has the measure of him now, in true pony style, he still knows how to switch on his wild side.
“I’d been telling Charlotte how amazing he was and when she came to watch, he was exceptionally naughty,” Jayne says.
“He corkscrews his body and I don’t know how he stays on his feet. Then he did show Charlotte his talent and she finds him an incredible pony to ride because the more you press the more you find. When I teach him something new, I think it and he’ll do it, like he’s been here before.”
Two years ago, Charlotte gave Jayne the ultimate present.
“I’d had a horse on livery for her and she was going to give me some money from the sale. Then she said, ‘I can either give you the money or you can keep Tom,” explains Jayne, who still trains with Charlotte whenever she can. “I didn’t blink. I said ‘Tom’ and then cried!”
Jayne’s other top ride is 18hh, but Tom rules the roost at home.
“He doesn’t walk, he struts, powering round like a cockerel,” she says. “I’ve given him a big ego. He whinnies non-stop, demanding sweets – he’s a proper pony that way. But at competitions, he grows as you trot round the arena, like he’s saying, ‘Bring it on, I’ve got this.’ I can go right into the corners and put my foot down, like a sports car.”
This year, Jayne’s aiming to make her grand prix debut with her pint-sized partner.
“Being a pony, there’s less pressure,” she says. “But he doesn’t know he’s only a pony; he believes he’s the next Valegro.”
“Cruz looks like a very strong pony – there’s a lot of power in his hind end,” says Jennie Loriston-Clarke, who bred one of Britain’s most famous pony stallions in Catherston Night Safe. “You wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell he is a pony without knowing – you can see in his quarters where his horse genes influence his strength of movement [Cruz’s dam was a small Oldenburg].
“There are hardly any ponies competing at grand prix – mainly because there aren’t the riders to train them – and it would be great to see him in the mix. There’s no reason a pony shouldn’t compete at that level. Night Safe had such amazing paces; you wouldn’t know you were riding a pony.”
Head and neck
“From his head, you couldn’t tell he is a pony,” says Jennie. “His head is not particularly dainty and pony-like; it’s purposeful, positive and honest, and is well set-on to the neck. He has good, alert ears and a nice, bold eye.
“His neck is quite refined compared to the rest of his body – he doesn’t have the crest a stallion would – but it’s nicely put-on and he has a strong topline.”
“His shoulder blade is quite upright, but I find often horses with a straight shoulder are actually good movers,” explains Jennie. “When they are as strong in the quarters as he is, this frees up the shoulder and so he can carry himself.
“The way he’s standing looks as if he’s inclined to carry the weight over his forelegs, but again his strong hind end will help him push from behind.
“He’s fit and in his prime. He looks balanced and well trained, and has plenty of charisma and presence.”
“Everything in his hind end denotes strength and power,” says Jennie. “Not only are his quarters strong and well developed, but he’s also so strong behind the saddle, in the loins and back, and his hocks look strong, too.
“This is very good for impulsion and uplift. You can imagine how well he is able to push forward from behind and into self-carriage.
“I should think he could jump well, too – those hindquarters could propel him into the air!”
This feature is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 3 June 2021
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