Looking after super star Cristallo; that’s Mathieu Mougeot’s job. Having spend the winter in the South of France with only four horses in the stables, waiting for the rest of Richard Spooner’s string of horses to arrive, and travelling from one fabulous show to another – we ended up realizing we would kind of like to have Mathieu’ s job ourselves!
Mathieu has not been with Spooner for long, he started working for the American rider in December 2012 – right ahead of Geneva. “Before that I worked for Matt Williams for almost one year, and then I also worked for Jerry Smith in Italy for a long time. In between I was a little in Florida – and that’s where I met Richard,” Mathieu explains.
“Richard and Kaylen are currently building up a new yard in Carcassonne in the South of France, as they wanted a permanent base in Europe. The yard will be brand new. We already have a huge outdoor arena, but we don’t have an indoor yet – but in this part of France we don’t really need it. We maybe have one week a year when it’s really needed. Building something up like that is a huge process, and we’ll take it step by step,” he says. “So while waiting for the rest of the horses to come from California, I’ve only had four horses to look after this winter. I’d never met the horses that have been in the States, so that’s been exciting,” Mathieu explains in his own relaxed way.
Cristallo is – without doubt the biggest star on the Spooner-team, and we want to hear more about the horse we really never get enough of; “I would say Cristallo is the perfect horse. He is fifteen now, but in many ways still like a four year old. You should see his legs, you would never believe his age – he looks like a youngster! You can take Cristallo out of the truck after a fifteen hour travel, and go straight to the jog without trouble,” Mathieu explains of Cristallo’s health. “He’s a fighter, but at the same time a real pony to deal with. At this age he doesn’t need any huge schooling or hard working at home in between the shows – the most important thing is to keep him going. He’s really not a horse you keep away from the shows for more than a couple of weeks!”
Richard also of course has other successful horses, such as Apache and Billy Bianca; “Apache is a scopey, scopey horse,” Mathieu says. “He is totally different from Cristallo though. Apache is a bigger horse, and more classical to ride so to say – not as unconventional as Cristallo. We often use Apache for the big classes on Saturdays, and then Cristallo for Sunday’s main class. As to Billy, she is simply one of the fastest horses in the world! Like Cristallo, she’s like a pony to deal with,” Mathieu says. “All of Richard’s horses are really fast – he’s named the Master of Faster you know, but it’s the way his horses are as well. They are all quite electric.”
Mathieu clearly enjoys his job for the Spooners, and is full of praise for them and the horses. But, as he points out – there are certain aspects of working as a groom that have the potential to become a lot better. “As a groom you are kind of a shadow walker; as a groom you work behind the scenes. The organizers should not forget us though, and I think they should keep us in mind when it comes to the time schedules. It’s very early mornings and very late night at some of the shows. Sometimes I feel like we need better rules in this regard. It needs to be remembered that the horses we look after are the super stars of this sport, and they spend a lot of their time with us. I often also think that the horses have to put up with a little bit too much – camels on the warm-up are an example. I understand that the organizers have to think of the audience that pay to watch the show, but sometimes I feel like it’s not always so secure for the horses,” Mathieu points out. “Keeping stables and other facilities close to the main arena for the event is also important, and makes our lives a little easier. I understand that it can be difficult for the smaller shows with their economy to think about the grooms, but for the big shows – they should have the budget for it,” he closes off.
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