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Balthazar de Fougnard – A love story

Thursday, 25 June 2020
Interview

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Luciana Diniz and Thierry Lacour together with Balthazar de Fougnard. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Behind Luciana Diniz and Balthazar de Fougnard’s newfound partnership lies a remarkable love story – authored by Olympic dressage legend Margit Otto Crepin, who sadly passed away earlier this year. And while Luciana’s introduction to the 9-year-old gelding by Diamant de Semilly x Quidam de Revel was initiated by a tragic life event, the pair’s future has all the possibilities of a very happy ending. Just as predicted by Margit herself. 

Luciana was caught by surprise when Margit Otto Crepin – her childhood idol – called her up last year and said that she wanted Luciana to ride her horse Balthazar de Fougnard – or to friends, Balou. “However, Margit was based in Hamburg – which is quite far from here and as I last year was under pressure to qualify for the Olympics I had no time to go there. So I told Margit I would come at the beginning of this year,” Luciana explains. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. "She wanted Balou’s love story to continue,” Luciana tells about how Margit matched her up with the 9-year-old gelding. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“In January, Margit said that she wanted to come with Balou to me. We would ride together, and if I loved him she wanted me to keep him. So Margit, Balou and Nathalie – who has been Margit’s groom for the last 35 years – came here. Margit rode him first and afterwards I did a few jumps. He doesn’t really give you a super feeling when you jump small fences, however when you put them up a bit you can feel that he really has something. So, I did love him – and he stayed,” Luciana tells. 

At this time no one knew that Margit was as ill as she was. Just a few months later, on April 19th, she sadly passed away at the age of 75. 

Margit and her partner – eventing rider Thierry Lacour – had found Balou at an auction when he was four. “He was the best horse of the auction and he was born on the same day as Margit’s super star Corlandus, so I ended up buying him,” Thierry explains. “I started to ride Balou, and did a few jumping shows with him before I gave him to Margit at the end of his fourth year. Balou is a wonderful horse that wants to do everything right and always does his best – seeing that Margit loved him, I gave her the ride and half of the horse.”

With Thierry living in France and Margit in Hamburg they only saw each other on a monthly basis. “We did spoke on the phone every day though and Balou was our baby,” Thierry says. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping "I’m really thankful to be a part of this beautiful adventure, which I hope to continue," Luciana says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Margit continued Balou’s education, shifting him towards dressage. Anyhow he still competed in jumping a few times a year with riders from the Holsteiner Verband as Margit was based there.

“Margit really enjoyed the dressage with Balou, so she kept him for her own riding. Since she loved him as much as she did, she didn’t want to give him away – she was really attached to him,” Luciana tells. “As her illness developed to the worse, it seemed like Margit really wanted to find a home for Balou and that she didn’t want to leave before he was in the right place – a place were Balou would be loved. She wanted Balou’s love story to continue.”

“The last time Margit was here – in March, just a few weeks before she passed away – she came with Thierry. She was really ill, and it was her last trip. They drove the car out to the ring and Margit gave me a lesson while seated there – and really pressured me,” Luciana smiles. “At the time, Margit could hardly stand, still she was so full of power. At one point she got mad and went out of the car and screamed ‘Forwards!’,” Luciana laughs. “Balou gave her power!”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping "Thierry comes here once a month to help me and he also still loves to ride Balou,” Luciana says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Every day, Luciana sent videos to Margit of Balou being ridden. “Even if I just went walking, I would make a video of him. I could feel how much this meant to her and that it was keeping her alive. It was my connection to Margit – she gave me the trust with Balou and this was my way of giving back,” Luciana tells.

“Margit was an amazingly powerful lady and she was so much into details. She gave me only a few lessons, she did however always answer my videos with instructions. About my hands, my position and other things that I never really paid attention to, since I ride alone. She went into every detail and it was fantastic. ‘That is not good, you have to do better – you can do better,’” Luciana smiles.  

“Margit always wanted the best,” Thierry ads. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping “Until now, Balou has not been challenged in the sport nonetheless I really believe in his qualities so it’s just about giving him the mileage," Luciana tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

As early as in February this year, Balou did his five-star debut in Bordeaux, France. However, it was not at all planned that he would compete there. “He was not ready for it,” Luciana says. “After realizing that Margit was getting rapidly worse, we decided in the very last minute to take him there. Then she at least could see him compete at a five-star show before it was too late.” 

Balou went to Bordeaux for the warm-up class, a 1.40m class and a 1.45m class. “Every time I went in the ring I really wanted Margit to be happy that we were there,” Luciana says. “Balou was clear in the warm-up and in the 1,40m class and then it was the 1,45m class – which was a big step from the 1,30m class the weekend before. I had no. one and no. two down, and after that Balou started to jump so good! When I got out of the ring Margit called me and said I had to keep him more active, that I was too relaxed, too nice – and she was right. Even though, Margit was so happy and she was praising how Balou jumped after the faults. I think Bordeaux was very important for Margit and it definitely was a big step for Balou; I’m happy it went well and he learned a lot there.”

“Until now, Balou has not been challenged in the sport nonetheless I really believe in his qualities so it’s just about giving him the mileage. That is not so easy this year, however for next year he will be ready. I’m really thankful to be a part of this beautiful adventure, which I hope to continue. Hopefully, Balou will be successful.” 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Balou enjoying the attention from Luciana and Thierry. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

To get a horse that was so well educated in dressage, has not always been easy for Luciana though. “It was a different rideability,” she tells. “When he arrived his body-shape was much more like a dressage horse than a jumper. And he also did some things that you don’t necessarily want when jumping. For example, he loves to do flying changes and he ended up doing that ahead of the fences – which he can still do today. He is also a bit French-built and can lean a bit on the hand, and Margit always wanted him higher, lighter and more active. This is also what Thierry helps me with now – he comes here once a month and he also still loves to ride Balou.”  

”While this is such a sad story about a class lady passing away at the age of 75, with a lot of pain – she was living to the end,” Luciana says about Margit. “We learn something new every day and even though I only had Margit in my life for a very short time she taught me so much about determination and power – and also about accepting.” 

Margit loved Balou, and was very sure about what he could go on to do. “Margit told me that Balou is my horse for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024,” Luciana says. “I told her that I actually wanted to retire after Tokyo since I’m turning 50 this year and it would be a perfect time for me to focus on my academy that I’m launching. She just answered ‘No, this is your horse for Paris’,” Luciana smiles and continues. “So now Margit is keeping me in the sport, and she gave me the horse to do it with.”

 

 

No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping



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