Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z: the quirky grand prix showjumper with a penchant for fruit *H&H Plus*

  • One of two potential Olympic contenders for world number two Daniel Deusser, this stallion boasts a phenomenal list of accomplishments – but seeing him at home you’d have your doubts, discovers Jennifer Donald

    Rider Daniel Deusser

    “TOBAGO is a different horse at home – lazy and not at all impressive; you’d doubt he had enough scope to jump a big class. 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. 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. He had a break in the first half of 2020 with a small injury but he’s come back in unbelievable form, jumping 20 clear rounds from 23 classes at 1.50/1.60m level. We’ve had many incredible wins but the Rolex grand prix in Wellington was one of the better ones – there are many situations in the ring when you have to help each other, but that day he did it so easily. There seems to be no limit to how big he can jump and it’s an unbelievable feeling.”

    Groom Sean Lynch

    “TOBAGO and Daniel’s other top horse Killer Queen keep me motivated every single day. Tobago 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! He’s like my number one child. But I didn’t really like him in the beginning – he was like a little feral 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 favourites.

    “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

    “WE are so proud of Tobago and his results with Daniel, they are such a lovely pair. We went to Stephex Stables to buy Halifax Van Het Kluizebos and saw Tobago in the stable, so casually asked who he was. Tobago wasn’t competing at the top level then, but Stephan Conter said he will be a champion. A few months later, Tobago won his first big competition so we said OK, we’ll buy him also.

    “We can’t see him as much as we want right now because of Covid. There are five of us in the office in Milan, so we’ll watch them and be cheering, ‘Go Tobago, go Daniel!’ But we watched him jumping live in Verona and it was amazing. His run in Wellington [Winter Equestrian Festival] this year was stunning because he won everything – we just thought, ‘Wow’. For Tobago, nothing is a problem.”

    You can also read this feature in the 13 May issue of Horse & Hound magazine.

    You might also be interested in…