Wellington M: ‘He has small man syndrome — but that’s what makes him special’

  • The 15.1hh winning machine is a devil in the stable but, since learning to handle his head-shaking, has become one of this country’s most consistent performers. Jennifer Donald meets the brilliant veteran with a can-do attitude

    “My mum, Liane Smith, was looking at yearlings at Nijhof stud, Netherlands, and came across this little four-year-old who she didn’t think was anything special but would
    be nice when I came off ponies. We nearly didn’t get him though because they wouldn’t drop the price – we had to wait a couple of weeks until they did – so it could have been a very different story.

    “The first week he was here, I fell off him every single day. He used to canter up the school, drop his shoulder, and then gallop back towards the stables. He will still do it some days – he’s certainly quite a character. People think he’s ‘sweet little Wellington’, but he’s evil in the stable – you can’t kiss or cuddle him.

    “He has small man syndrome and believes that he is the boss of the yard – if you don’t turn him out first, he rears and bucks round his stable. But he puts all that into every performance in the ring and that’s what makes him special.

    “We’ve grown and bonded together from novices but we’ve been through some bad spells, too. He started head-shaking as a six-year-old and that summer he just couldn’t handle it, so for six months he was throwing me off. I dropped him down a level, we did loads of tests on him, then a £25 muzzle net did the job and we were off again – he just got better and better.

    “He’s only 15.1hh but you never canter to a fence thinking he can’t jump it – he’s like a spring, always thinking, ‘We can do this!’ My proudest moment was winning the under-23 British championship at Olympia in 2014. He’s won so much but I still appreciate every moment in the ring with him – and even more so now he’s getting older.

    “Retirement isn’t in sight yet and he still absolutely loves his job, but I want him to finish his career enjoying it as much as he did when he started.”

    Owner Liane Smith

    “He’s won so much but we never take it for granted — every win feels special, like he’s never won before. I rode him while Kerry was pregnant then again when she was working down south, just keeping him ticking over, but I’m much more nervous watching than riding.

    “He’s so naughty — I don’t like going in the stable with him because he’ll get you from every end! But riding him is just fantastic, he’s not like a little horse at all — he feels big and powerful. He loves his job, tries 100% every time and that’s what’s taken them forward. They both believe in each other and every class is exciting when they’re in it.”

    British Showjumping performance manager Di Lampard

    “Nationally, Wellington is a phenomenal winner — he’s a small horse with a huge heart. He and Kerry have won nearly every title going in the country and stepped up marvelously to the bigger shows such as a Horse of the Year Show.

    “The longevity of this partnership is amazing and it just shows what you can achieve if you look after a horse. It’s a credit to the team that they have kept Wellington going at such a high level for this period of time.”

    Wellington M factfile

    Stable name: Welly
    Age: 17
    Breeding: Quidam De Revel x Cash
    Rider: Kerry Brennan
    Owner: Liane Smith
    Breeder: Veehandel Musterd BV, Hooge Zwaluwe (Netherlands)
    Greatest achievements: first British Showjumping Indoor Championship Final grand prix 2020; first under-23 British championship at Olympia 2014; represented Great Britain in Nations Cups of Lisbon (2015) and Drammen (2016); has won grands prix, international stairways and titles all over the country, including an under-25 class at Liverpool CSI4* 2015/16, the CSI2* Chepstow grand prix 2018, and CSI2* Balmoral 2018.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 3 December 2020

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