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WoSJ Exclusive; Anu Harrila – “Shutterfly behaves like a king, and Checkmate like a show man”

Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Interview

Legends: Shutterfly and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum. Photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Legends: Shutterfly and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum. Photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

The sport has many superstars; but one of the biggest of them will forever be Meredith Michaels Beerbaum’s Shutterfly. We sat down with Shutterfly’s head girl Anu Harrila to find out more about the historic veteran, his successful stable mate and travel companion Checkmate, as well as their future successors.

Next to Meredith, Anu must be the one who knows Shutterfly the best. The 33 year old Finnish girl has worked for Meredith for 13 years, and has known Shutterfly since he arrived at the yard in 1999 as a 6 year old. “Shutterfly is truly something special, and he is also a bit weird,” Anu says about the 18 year old gelding. “He is a really nice horse, and he likes people – as long as they are not strangers,” Anu smiles.

 

Anu with future star Lancaster.
Anu with future star Lancaster.

Shutterfly’s faithful head girl also tells us that the gelding is easy to deal with, but that he can get quite stressed in different situations. “An example of just that is the fact that he doesn’t like getting the saddle on and he definitely doesn’t like the prize giving ceremonies – he hasn’t been in one since he was 9 years old,” Anu says. “When he was younger he was also nervous in the warm-up, so we had to ride him at least for an hour to make him calm down – he needed a lot of work,” Harrila lets us know. “But he has gotten much better with his age, and although he still has some of his special quirkiness he has grown up a lot. Shutterfly has come a long way since he as a 6 year old was nicknamed “Spaghetti”, as he was unable to trot straight forward,” Anu laughs.

For those of us who have followed Shutterfly’s career it comes as no surprise to hear that he is a very sensible horse, and “that he hears and pays attention to everything”. But, as Anu tells us “At the same time he is like a dog; I take him out for walks all the time, and he just follows me wherever.”

“I know him in and out now as we have been together for so long; it’s much easier with him now that he is older.” The two of them almost seem like an old married couple, as Anu tells us; “When Meredith arrives in the stables I can let her know what kind of mood he is in, that’s just how it’s become after all this years together,” Anu says. “I would say that Shutterfly behaves like a king, but a very modest one, “Anu laughs.

 

Checkmate and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum at the WEG in 2010.
Checkmate and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum at the WEG in 2010.

With two veterans like this still at the top of the sport – and with so many achievements – it’s interesting to hear how Shutterfly and Checkmate are kept fit for fight; “Well, I wouldn’t say there is anything special that we do for the two of them. We try to treat all the horses the same,” Anu says.

The two boys have now reached the age where successors are needed at some point, and we ask Anu if Meredith has any exciting prospects for the future. “Oh yes. We have Kismet, a 10 year old Kannan-mare, who looks very promising. We have had her since she was a 7 year old. Kismet has all the scope in the world, but will need some more time to get rideable enough,” Anu explains. “We took her to California in March and competed her there, and ‘s-Hertogenbosch was her first big outing after returning to Europe.”

Then there is the Holsteiner mare Bella Donna, who is 8 years old. “She is very, very scopey – if you see her, you will remember her! I think she needs more experience, as she is ‘a lot of horse’,” Harrila explains. “But she is definitely one for the future!” “We also have a great 10 year old called Lancaster, who is also in need of some more time as he can get a little stressed and needs to learn to stay cool,” Anu says.

 

Anu Harrila.
Dedicated; Anu has worked for Meredith for thirteen years.

As the groom of two of the sports best horses, what has been Anu’s top three career moments? “Well, for a start I have to mention the WEG in Kentucky where Meredith and Checkmate were part of the winning team for Germany. I mean, Meredith coming back like that after having a baby was amazing,” Anu says. “Then there is of course the World Cup final in Las Vegas back in 2009 where Meredith and Shutterfly won the title for the third time, and were clear and won in every round. It was unbelievable; things like that don’t really happen do they?” Anu also mentions the Europeans in Mannheim in 2007, where Meredith took home the individual gold medal and team silver aboard Shutterfly, as a very special moment.

Well, there is no reason to believe that this adventure is over yet. With Shutterfly’s and Checkmate’s form over the past months – a third in the GCT in Doha for Shutterfly, a win in the world cup in Lyon for Checkmate – they two boys are stilled feared by their competitors. After all, the oldest are the wisest!

 

Photos by Jenny Abrahamsson/Text by Jannicke Naustdal - copyright © worldofshowjumping.com 2011.

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