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From youngster to international Grand Prix horse: Bianca

Tuesday, 07 March 2017
From youngster to international Grand Prix horse

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Steve Guerdat with Bianca. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

If there was one horse that caught our eye last year, it was Steve Guerdat’s Bianca. Again and again she impressed with her spectacular jumping, finishing second in the five-star Grand Prix in Brussels in September and then going on to be fourth, fifth and second in the five-star World Cup legs in Oslo, Helsinki and Stuttgart. The 11-year-old mare has scope to burn, and a striking technique. “The feeling on her is even better than it looks,” Guerdat said when talking about his super-star last autumn.

By Balou du Rouet out of the mare Coco by Cardento, Bianca was born in Sweden in 2006. What was Bianca like as a youngster though? Was she always destined for showjumping stardom? We spoke with Eamon Hickey – who bred Bianca together with Kristina Gustafsson and had the mare in his stables until she was 3-years-old – her owner Hannah Roberson-Mytilineou, her former rider Nicholas Channing-Williams as well as Sylve Söderstrand – who trained her when she was younger – to find out more about this amazing mare.

“Bianca was always quite sensitive, and had a lot of energy – but in a good way,” Hickey, a specialist on young horses, tells World of Showjumping. “She was very awake and alert in a positive way.”

“She was careful from the beginning. At the Swedish 3-year-old test she got very high points for her free jumping,” Eamon tells. “In the autumn, Bianca went to the Swedish Select Horse Sales Auction and was bought for Hannah Roberson-Mytilineou for 360 000 SEK. Since then I had not heard anything about her, before in 2015 when Sylve showed me a video of Steve jumping her at a show.”

Bianca actually has three siblings, Belle Rock, Blanca and Bombay – all out of Coco and by Balou du Rouet. “At the time we used him, Balou du Rouet was a young stallion,” Hickey tells looking back. “Bianca seems to be the most outstanding one of the three offspring.” There is also a half-brother by the stallion Diarado, described by Hickey as “a very nice horse, with a lovely temperament and very clever on the jumps.”

How come that Bianca was the one out of her three siblings that became the best one we ask Hickey? “There is so much involved. Many horses look promising as youngsters,” Eamon says. “But, they also have to have both brains and heart – which Bianca does. I also think Bianca was lucky to be produced by one of the best riders in the world. It seems like Steve took it slowly with her and gave her time, and he is a very accurate rider which certainly is a benefit.”

“It’s been really fun to follow her, I am always happy for horses I have had something to do with that later do well,” says Hickey.

“It was Sylve Söderstrand that suggested that we should have a look at the horses at the auction. So, I got online and had a look at them all. Bianca was the most spectacular of them. We ended up buying three horses, and she was definitely the most promising,” her owner Hannah Roberson-Mytilineou tells.

“Bianca always had her own way of jumping. Even over a cross-pole at home she would jump a meter up every time, and it did not go away. For me she was a bit too much to ride, and I tried to find a better rider to produce her but I could not really find anybody. So, every time I felt that she did not really develop the way I wanted her to I ended up putting her back in the field – the result was that she was being produced very slowly.”

“Even though she was not the easiest, I never thought about selling her. That being said, I sometimes questioned her. The scope was there, she was careful – but she over-jumped everything,” Hannah continues.

When she was eight, Nicholas Channing-Williams started to ride Bianca. “He did a lot of work with her, water, ditches and so on – because she was quite spooky. In 2015, Steve saw her in Arezzo with Nick in the collecting ring. After he came to me and asked about her. And the rest is history,” Hannah says.

“I thank my lucky star that the two of them found each other. Steve loves her, and understands her. Bianca really needed Steve to get that specialness brought out of her, and I think she came to him at the right time – she was green, but still ready to be pushed and move forwards.”

For Roberson-Mytilineou it has been quite an adventure to follow Bianca through the last year. “She is unreal,” Hannah says. “We had nice horses before, but never one as good as this – it is a nice surprise! Perhaps I can’t ride her myself, but the second best thing is to own her and watch her with Steve.”

Sylve Söderstrand also followed Bianca’s development. “Bianca jumped very spectacular and was careful, but it is always hard to tell with a 3-year-old free jumping. Later I followed her during her education, and was there when she started jumping under the saddle. Bianca had quite a mood, and was not the easiest. As a young horse she jumped extreme behind, so much sometimes that she would lose her balance. As she at the same time was so careful, it was difficult sometimes to get her enough forward. It took some time with her,” Sylve explains.

Bianca’s former rider Nick Channing-Williams confirms that the mare was not the easiest horse in the beginning. “Bianca had a quirky character, and could be a bit spooky. Sometimes she would spin around and put me on the floor. But, the feeling she gave me on the jump was unbelievable – she would sometimes throw me out of the saddle,” Nick laughs. “The problem was that she would go far too high, a 1.10 jump she would do as a 1.30 – which meant I ended up having to over-ride her a bit sometimes. As a consequence, she would then run off after the fence. I have to admit there were a few times I perhaps thought she would be too careful for the bigger classes.”

“In 2014 I won a Grand Prix with her in Greece, and that was kind of a small breakthrough for her. The year after – in the spring – I took her to Arezzo, and brought her straight in the grass ring to jump. She did a really nice round, and from there on she jumped better and better. Then Steve spotted her, and – well – she never came back with me from there,” Nick tells.

“It has been a pleasure to follow Steve and Bianca. At my stables in Greece, we used to have a pub that we called ‘The Dog & Duck’, and I would always joke that I would love to see Bianca on EuroSport one day when sitting there watching the jumping on TV – now I can! For me it is a huge satisfaction to watch her, and what she has achieved with Steve,” Nick closes off.

 


Text © World of Showjumping // Picture © Jenny Abrahamsson

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