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WoSJ Exclusive; Kay Neatham – "Marcus’ horses are all superstars!"

Tuesday, 08 March 2011
Interview

Kay with Küche - who has a special place in her heart - and "the princess" Sabrina. Photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Kay with Küche - who has a special place in her heart - and "the princess" Sabrina. Photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

If a dream groom exists it must be Kay Neatham! Meet the girl who travels the world with Marcus Ehning’s top horses.

Kay is the type of girl you have to like. A least if you love horses. After meeting with her I am convinced that there is nobody else I would rather leave my horses to than her. Kind, fun, calm and easy to be around – no wonder Marcus thinks that she is great!

She left England as a 17 year old to work for one of Germany’s young riders at the time – Sönke Kohrock. From there she never looked back; Kay went on to work for the likes of Beat Mändli, Peter Wylde and Bernando Alves – actually she was with Alves for five and a half years. In December 2009 she decided to move on and start a new adventure; this time as the groom of Marcus Ehning – one of the worlds best riders.

“I know Marcus’ sister Karina very well as she is one of my friends, and she was the one who asked if I wanted to take on the position,” Kay explains. “So I went to their yard in Borken, near the Dutch border, and stayed there for a couple of days just to get a feeling on whether it was right or not. The feeling was good, and with Marcus being the excellent rider that he is it was a chance not to be missed,” she smiles.

So how is life when you work with some of the absolute top horses in the world? “Marcus’ horses are all different and all special; actually they are all super stars,” Kay laughs. “And for a reason; I think every horse would like to have a Marcus Ehning on their back. Marcus takes the horses as individuals, he adapts to them.”

Sabrina, the 12 year old mare by Marcus’ stallion Sandro Boy, is described by Kay as a princess. “If she was a human she would have an entourage. She would be like ‘I need to have that handbag!’, ‘I need to go to that hairdresser!’ – it’s just all about her,” Kay smiles as she tells us about the lovely mare. “She is quite mareish, and sometimes you just have to tell her that enough is enough!” Kay tells us that Sabrina has been with Marcus from the age of seven, and as a young horse she was quite difficult to ride. “So I think Marcus is really proud of her and what she has achieved,” Kays says of the horse who has won several Grand Prix’s for Marcus.

Jewel's Carat and Marcus Ehning. "Carat always wants to do well," Kay says.
Jewel's Carat and Marcus Ehning. "Carat always wants to do well," Kay says.

Then there is Sabrina’s father Sandro Boy, the 18 year old great stallion on whom Marcus has enjoyed some great results including winning the world cup final in 2006. “Sandro Boy is a super star, and he knows it,” Kay says “At home he is just called ‘Chef’, because he’s definitely the boss!” Kay continues; “He has such a presence, it’s just amazing! On the other hand he is quite shy; but he stills loves attention. Sandro Boy does his job his way, and when he is good he is great.” Kay tells us that the wonderful bay is to be officially retired in Leipzig in late April, and his future career includes breeding only. “We have a stunning two year old by him and Marcus’ mare Anka at home, and another one year old by him and Iris! All home bred,” Kay explains.

Jewel’s Carat – a nine year old stallion by Quasimodo x Caletto II from Jewel Court Stud – is described by Kay as “not the easiest to ride”. I laugh at what she says, because everything looks easy to ride when Marcus is on top of it; “No, it is true – he can actually be quite difficult to ride. For Carat it took some time growing up and into himself,” Kay tells us. “That being said, Carat always wants to do well. And he has an easy temper, so he is always good for me to deal with,” she continues.

Carat has recently been joined by his half sister Jewel’s Exclusive Touch “who is just called Jet, because she is like a jet plane,” Kay laughs. Jet is out of the same mother as Carat - Classic Touch, who won the Olympics with Ludger Beerbaum in Barcelona. Both Carat and Jet are results of embryo transfers. “Jet is only seven, and should be one to watch! We are all excited about her,” Kay lets us know.

Marcus Ehning and Plote Blue.
Plot Blue likes to have the last word.

“Awesome” – that is the word Kay uses when she describes Plot Blue. Marcus’ WEG-partner by Mr. Blue x Pilot has recently enjoyed some time off as he has been used for breeding, and as Kay says “When the stallion breed, we don’t use them in competition. The breeding takes a lot out of them, so they stay at home.” Kay tells us that the 14 year old Plot Blue has a lot of character, and that he “sees everything – it’s in his instinct.” “If there is a camera somewhere near the course, he will have spotted it long before the rest of us – he is an observer,” Kay says. “And well, he is actually sometimes called 'Pit Bull' at home because he can be a little aggressive around the other horses,” Kay laughs. “He just loves to jump. So much actually, that when we load the horsetruck for a show and he isn’t coming along he runs around in the box. All he wants is to go to the show and jump,” she laughs. “Plot’s eagerness is also shown when we tack him up. Marcus usually puts the bridle on him, and Plot always just walks off long before it’s even on,” she continues. “I would say that Plot definitely likes to have the last word!”

Noltes Küchengirl (Lord Z x Cambrige Cole) is one of Marcus’ most successful horses; the 14 year old stunning mare won the last leg of the Global Champions Tour in Rio, thus securing the overall win of the 2010 Tour for Marcus. “Küche wants to be good,” Kay explains. “But you must also give her the right feeling, so that she actually wants to – it’s like a game where you push the right buttons in order to make her want to do the right thing. She is very sensitive.” Küche is also special in the way that she doesn’t like everybody that comes her way; she is a mare that chooses her company carefully. “She can be quite grumpy,” Kay says, “and if you push the wrong buttons, it’s likely you end up having a bad day with her.” Kay actually looked after Küche’s father Lord Z when she worked for Mändli “and they are very much the same, so it is easy for me to understand her,” Kay smiles. “Küche has a very special place in my heart! Not at least for her unbelievable win in Rio last year; that was a day I will never forget.” Kay often jokes about Küche – as küchen means kitchen in English; “I always wanted a big kitchen; now I have one!”

Noltes Küchengirl, Kay and Marcus in Zürich.
Noltes Küchengirl, Kay and Marcus in Zürich.

On the question about the more up-and-coming horses in Ehning’s yard, Kay also mentions Campbel – an eight year old stallion by Contendro x Argentan. “Campbel won three young horse finals last year – including the youngster final in Aachen; he is very scopey and has the potential to become really good. Marcus almost has to hold him back a little.” There is also the seven year old home bred Funky Fred who is by Panama – Marcus' mare that brought him up in the sport – and his amazing stallion For Pleasure who sadly passed away in February. “Funky Fred is super laid back; an easy going guy, who is showing signs of super star potential,” Kay lets us know.

With all her experience, it’s interesting to hear what show Kay prefers going to. “Aachen is great; the atmosphere is magic. But I have to say that I love the indoor season; Gothenburg is great, and so was Zürich and Basel as well.” Kay also mentions the show in Rio – which is put up by Alvaro Miranda and his wife Athina – where all the grooms are looked after in a very good way. “And as long as the organizers are trying their best, we grooms are usually happy. The most important thing for us is that the horses are fine; they come first. After that comes available food; at available times. But I think most show organizers have got the part about the grooms now; because if we are not happy, it’s likely that the riders aren’t happy either.”

So what keeps Kay going after so many years of travelling around the globe with the top horses in the world? “Well, it’s all about the love for the horses. They give you so much back. I never wanted anything else than this life; and right now I just want to keep going!”

Küche, Sabrina and Kay - a dream team.
Küche, Sabrina and Kay - a dream team.

The dream groom does exist. And yes, her name is Kay Neatham.

 

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

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