When WoSJ met with Richard Spooner – also known as the Master of the Faster – we discovered that there is a lot more to the US rider than his nickname suggests. Spooner did indeed live up to his name by winning two of three speed classes in ‘s-Hertogenbosch [where this interview took place], but he is also a very stylish, sensitive and technical showjumper that rides one of the most eccentric horses on the circuit. And; he seems like a genuinely nice guy who really appreciates his horses and their different personalities.
Richard has been a regular sight on the international showjumping scene for the past decade, and it was his family who originally got him into the equestrian business. “My mother loved horses,” Richard says. “So, when I was ten years old I started to ride – and I was hooked! Until I was eighteen I did equitation, and then I decided to get some experience and went to work with riders such as Hugo Simon, Ian Millar and George Morris. I then returned to the Los Angeles area, and my first wife and I started up our own business. We did that together for a few years, but the marriage dissolved and so did the business along with it,” Spooner lets us know.
The split led Spooner to start his own business, which he has been running for the past seventeen years. “Since then I have been doing mostly showjumping horses. I focus on competing now, and I don’t deal horses any more or teach as I used to,” the 41 year old says. “We have about 15-20 horses, but only bring between three-four of them with us to Europe. I’d like to take them all, but that would be too expensive,” Spooner smiles. “So, when I’m away I have a friend of mine that rides at Grand Prix level and lives about 30 miles away that jumps the horses that remain at home for me.”
“We have two yards; one in Los Angeles and one in Carcassonne in France. The amount of time we stay in each location depends on the horses and the competition schedule,” Richard explains. “For now [end of April] we’re staying for six weeks in Europe to do Valencia, La Baule, Hamburg and Wiesbaden. Then we go to Calgary before we return to Europe again. I would say that we spend approximately three to six months in Europe every year.” There are no plans for the Olympics in London for Richard, and there has been no discussion of him riding on the American teams in the Promotional League – so his plan will be to focus on the Global Champions Tour this season.
What’s the biggest difference between the shows in Europe and in the US, we ask Spooner. “The shows are much nicer in Europe. And since I do a lot of competing, that’s really important,” he smiles. “It’s a different type of industry in the US – and I enjoy the format of the horse shows in Europe more.”
Spooner’s most famous partner is probably Cristallo – the 14 year old gelding by Caretino who has a real character! “Cristallo is a bit wild, and he always has been,” Richard smiles. “With him it’s always been a challenge to balance training and freedom – as he likes his freedom a lot! Cristallo is an extraordinary athlete. He is an unbelievable jumper, and really doesn’t want to hit the jumps,” Richard says of the horse on who he has won some major classes including back to back wins in the Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in Monaco, as well as taking Nations Cup wins with the American team in St. Gallen and Rome in 2009.
“I’ve had Cristallo since he was a five year old, and when I first saw him I thought he jumped fantastic. We didn’t quite get along though, but I thought that it would change over time. But it didn’t, so at home my wife mainly rides him – Cristallo loves her! I try to stay out of their way, and get on at shows,” he says with a grin. “My wife has done a great job with him, and he’s a lot calmer now than he used to be and requires a bit less work than he used to do.” It also seems like Cristallo plays a huge part in Richard’s presence on the European showjumping scene; “I need to do the big shows with him. With a horse like that I feel a responsibility to take him to the top shows; it wouldn’t be fair to leave him to just jump in the US.”
Billy Bianca – a British bred 11 year old mare by Vectha – is another of Richard’s winning rides. Over the past eight months she has won five big classes for Spooner. “I use Billy Bianca for both the big classes and the speed classes. She’s a bit of a thoroughbred type, and has a real desire to please. She’s a wonderful horse with a lot of heart!”
Richard recently got back a previous ride, that he is very excited about – the 13 year old Apache. “I sold him to Ashley Bond two years ago, as he was part of a syndicate that wanted to sell. I got an opportunity to buy him back, and it was really nice of Ashley to sell him back to me – he just came to me last week [this interview was done at the World Cup finals]. I’ve always been fond of the horse, but Apache is a better horse now than he was before so I’m very excited to have him back,” Richard says. “It usually takes a bit of time to adapt to each other, but we’ve done that quickly. I hope that Apache can help take off some of the pressure from Cristallo,” Spooner explains of his new partnership that already has resulted in a third place in the Grand Prix in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
At home, Richard also has some talent waiting to get to shine. “I have a ten year old called Let’s Dance, who I think will be fantastic for the future!” Spooner says before we close off so he can prepare for the World Cup final.