Switching codes has proved a successful decision for former top showing rider and producer Michaela Wood.
The North Yorkshire-based rider, who runs Dallamires Stables with her partner George Whitaker, headed Friday’s Owl Homes 1.25m amateur class at the Dodson & Horrell Bolesworth International Horse Show with the Billy Congo son Lingala (“Mikey”).
“If I throw him in at the deep end, take the strides out and do the tight turns, he loves it,” she said.
“The more pressure you put on him, the bigger the atmosphere, the better he is – he builds up with the atmosphere. He’s very good at going fast and because he’s so small, he can turn on a sixpence.”
The fire in the 15.3hh 10-year-old stallion’s round matched the fire of his chestnut coat, and the pair stopped the clock 0.77 seconds ahead of second placed Marnie Darcy Green and Ice Cold Z.
“He’s built like a bull, but he is tiny and he has the biggest stride. I took out all the strides in there and it was easy for him – I was holding him,” she explained.
“I don’t like to do too much with him. I like to pick and choose our shows, so during [lockdowns] he had a nice break and did loads of hacking, kept him chilled, then built him back up ready for the shows again.”
She added it is wonderful to see crowds back at the show.
“I think there’s a lot of things that Covid has taught everyone, like not taking things for granted. It’s just so nice to be back at Bolesworth, it’s one of our favourite shows. My family love it and Nina and the team couldn’t do enough for everyone,” she said.
Michaela and George have 55 horses in, ranging from youngsters up to grand prix showjumpers – so lockdown was anything but quiet.
“My dad just loves buying the young ones – he bought like eight foals last year. It’s his birthday today, so he’s probably going buy himself a birthday present in the auction!” she said, adding that she also started selling to the US hunter-jumper market during lockdown.
“We would rather be busy than quiet, we’ve got some really really good horses coming through. Not sure how many I’ll get to pick out, because George will probably want to steal them all,” she laughed. “This chestnut one he is never allowed to steal. He is my little pride and joy.”
‘I used to get more nervous showing’
Michaela explained what inspired her to switch from showing
“I had just won HOYS [Horse of the Year Show] for the fourth time with my coloured Login Lucky Lad. I had been with George for a year and a half and he was working aboard, so it was so difficult trying to do both,” she said.
“I thought, ‘right I’ve won HOYS 10 times now in showing, I’ve won everything I can in showing, I want to do something different’.
“[Mikey] actually came from one of George’s best friends, Reece Oliver, who bred him. We went to try him and George said ‘I don’t think he will suit’, but as soon as I sat on him, I knew he suited me down the ground.”
She added: “It’s so strange because I used to get more nervous showing, I think because you can hear a pin drop in the show ring – there’s so much pressure. Whereas when you’re jumping, you forget what’s around you.
“I remember at HOYS I’d be in the line up, waiting to do my show, and you overthink everything. Whereas here, you go in the ring, you get into a good canter and you can’t mess up because you’ve got to jump the jump that’s in front of you, and you actually forget everything that’s around you.
“Showing was so good because it’s taught me so much. It’s taught me a lot on the flat and riding different sorts of horses and I loved it, but now this is completely different. I’ve got the best training from George and all his family. It’s unbelievable. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
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