In 2014, a white big-jumping gelding caught everybody’s eye in Aachen. His name was Fibonacci, and he was flying the fences with Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum in the saddle. Two years later, Fibonacci is one of the world’s most famous horses and this year he won the team bronze at the Olympic Games. World of Showjumping caught up with Lisen Bratt Fredricson who discovered Fibonacci as a 7-year-old, as well as her stable jockey Stephanie Holmén who competed him the last year before he was sold to Michaels-Beerbaum.
Here’s the story on how Fibonacci went from an unknown 7-year-old, to become a celebrity in the showjumping world.
“The stories I have heard about him when he was first under the saddle, suggest he was quite wild,” Lisen Bratt Fredriscon laughs. “Apparently Fibonacci needed a real specialist on difficult horses on his back, and the first time he had the saddle on he walked around on his hind legs for one full round while he was screaming from his lungs.”
Stephanie Holmén confirms the stories about Fibonacci being quite a wild child: “I know the girl who used to ride him when he was young, and apparently he was quite a handful. She told me that sometimes she could not sleep at night when she knew that she had to ride him the next day, as he could be really frightening as a young horse.”
However, the first time Lisen saw Fibonacci he had – luckily – calmed down. “The first I saw of Fibonacci – or Fendi as he was called back then – was on a video I received of him jumping the year he was seven,” Lisen recalls. “I was not too impressed with the way he was jumping; he jumped too straight with his front legs as well as his back– and his technique made him seem a bit behind the fence all the time. I also did not really like his breeding all that much,” Lisen reveals about her first impressions.
“The next time I saw him, was at a young horse competition in Sweden. In the ring he caught my eye; and he had something – even though I still was of the opinion that he jumped with his front legs too straight. However, Fibonacci looked untouched by what he was doing – it was effortless from his side. Fibonacci also looked as if he had a lot of power when he went off the ground, and in the jump itself – he really had a way to back off the fence and still stay powerful. That being said, he did not look so easy to ride with his special technique as well as lacking rideability between the fences – he was running a lot after the jumps,” Lisen tells.
“I asked to try him, but there was already a Dutch rider interested – but it turned out Fibonacci was too difficult and I got the chance to sit on him. My feeling the first time I jumped him on an oxer that was a bit bigger was the same as it had looked from the ground. He had a lot of power, and also a lot of balance, in his jump. But, he was running after the fences and was quite strong. My thought was that if we could get his rideability better with a lot of flat work, he would get better,” explains Lisen.
“In the end, that was what he needed – a lot of classical flat work. He had to learn to carry himself and find his own balance, as well as taking the connection to the bit. To learn to go forwards and come back was also something we had to work a lot on with him. In the end he got much stronger in his body. I don’t know what would have become of him if he had not responded to the intense flatwork we gave him,” Lisen reflects.
“Although I was skeptical to his breeding in the beginning, I later have gotten to know that his mother-line is really strong and that the dam had produced only good offspring. We now have a 5-year-old out of the same mother by the stallion Cabachon; Crusader Ice is his name. He jumps similar to Fibonacci, has a fantastic exterior – and like his brother he has that little extra something.”
When Stephanie Holmén joined Lisen and her husband Peder at Grevlunda Stables in 2013, Fibonacci was already there and soon she would take over the reins on the white gelding. “I had seen Fibonacci in the ring and always thought he jumped a bit in his own way,” she recalls. “It looked like he had a lot of power, but he jumped a bit long and flat sometimes and his curve over the jump was somehow weird. I did not think he was all that special.”
That impression would quickly change however. “The first time I jumped him, I was like ‘Wow!’. I immediately understood what Lisen liked so much about him.”
“Fibonacci is such a clever horse with the jumps, that is definitely one of his strengths. Then he has a lot of power; I can not remember that it ever felt like the fences cost him anything. I jumped him up until 1.50-level, and I don’t think he ever had more than one rail down – and that did not happen often.”
In 2014, Holmén jumped Fibonacci in the U25 competitions at the Saut Hermès show in Paris – and the two did not go home unnoticed. “Quite a few asked for him there. Then we went to Arezzo, and after he jumped clear in a 1.50 competition there it felt like people were running behind him when he came out of the ring,” she smiles.
In the end, Fibonacci would end up with Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum. “Actually, I had send a video of Fibonacci one year earlier – when he was eight – to Stevie Macken. I told him that I believed the horse would jump the big Grand Prix classes, and that he had all the qualities to do so. My price on him reflected this – but I have a feeling Stevie thought I was a bit crazy,” Lisen laughs. “Stevie actually showed the video to Meredith at that time, but it was just a bit too early. One year later however, it turned out that in the end it was the perfect match!”
“They are a match made in heaven,” says Stephanie. “Fibonacci really matured with her. Although you could feel that he had it in him, you also need a rider that can bring that last potential out of the horse. I believe that what makes Fibonacci one of the world’s best horses is simply that he is just a bit better than any other horse. It just comes easy for him.”
“It’s been great to follow him with Meredith, and see that he became the horse we believed he would become,” says Stephanie. “Jumping him, he always gave me the feeling that ‘this is what it should feel like’. It’s nice to get a confirmation that your own feeling was right.”
Lisen has also followed Fibonacci with great pleasure since he left Grevlunda, and he is not their only testimonial of success. “This year we had two horses from our stables taking medals at the Olympics; Fibonacci won team bronze with Meredith and H&M All In individual silver with Peder. That was really something special!” Lisen closes off.
As told by Lisen Bratt Fredricson and Stephanie Holmén to World of Showjumping // Text © Jannicke Naustdal for World of Showjumping // Pictures © Jenny Abrahamsson
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