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From youngster to international Grand Prix horse: Big Star

Tuesday, 04 October 2016
From youngster to international Grand Prix horse

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Born to be a star: Big Star and Nick Skelton competing in Rio where they were crowned Olympic Champions. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

From the moment Nick Skelton got the ride on Big Star, the British showjumping legend referred to the Quick Star-son as the best horse he had ever sat on. Bought by Skelton as only a 5-year-old, Big Star immediately started winning one competition after another – and the rest is history.

But, what was Big Star like long before he became Olympic Champion? What made Nick Skelton buy him? World of Showjumping spoke to the American horse-dealer and trainer Alan Waldman, based in the Netherlands, who co-owned Big Star from the stallion was 2-years-old until he got sold to Skelton.

Alan Waldman first saw Big Star (Quick Star x Nimmerdor) – back then still called What a Quick Star K – at the place of the famous Dutch breeder Cees Klaver. At that time, Waldman was riding Taloubet Z for Cees Klaver. “Although I rode Taloubet for Cees back then, I got tipped about Big Star by Dutch rider Marcel Beukers. He told me Cees had a good 2-year-old stallion, so I went to see him,” Alan explains.

For Waldman, it was love at first sight when he saw Big Star at Cees Klaver’s barn in Schoorl, in the north of the Netherlands. “He really jumped super. I was not going to leave the property until I had him, and after a long discussion with Cees I was able to buy half of the horse.”

When Big Star became three years of age, he was put under the saddle and also made his first jumps with a rider. “He was a horse with so much energy and blood. He never got tired. Big Star was quite a lot of animal to handle, but his character was great,” Waldman recalls.

“The first time we jumped him under the saddle, was amazing. There are very few times I have ever seen a horse jump like that. He did everything right: Fantastic in front, open from behind and he had the right focus. Despite all his energy and blood, he has always had the focus on the jump.”

As a 4-year-old, Big Star competed in the Dutch KWPN/KNHS Stallion Competition. At that time, he was ridden by Mischa Everse – the wife of Mario Everse, who had taken over half of Big Star from Cees Klaver. “I thought Big Star was the best stallion in the competition, but at one show in Hengelo he got the worst points,” Waldman laughs looking back. “I was quite shocked, but we never doubted the horse, not anywhere along the way.”

Although Big Star was not the most beautiful horse as a youngster, Alan states there was always something about him. “He always looked sporty. He did not have small ears and a pony head, and his neck came out quite high from his chest. But he was an impressive animal, which he still is. He looks muscled and big and strong, like a real athlete.”

According to Waldman, Big Star’s jump has always been fantastic. “Even someone who did not know anything about horses at all could tell Big Star was a fantastic horse, already as a 4-year-old. At that time, Taloubet was already winning 7-year-old classes – and I kept on telling Cees Klaver that Big Star was equally talented. His brain and his ability were great all the time. And he was crazy healthy as well, there was never a pimple on him and his legs were hard as steal. Every day he came out of his stall very loose, flexible and happy.”

Alan Waldman rode Big Star for a while as a 4-year-old, and in the final stage before he got sold to Nick Skelton as a 5-year-old he also showed the stallion. “Because of the way his neck comes out of his shoulder, he carried his head high by nature – so it was not the easiest to get the right connection. But he had a good mouth, and a very good brain and he was extremely flexible.”

In July 2008, Nick Skelton came over to try Big Star after Laura Kraut had seen him at a show where he was ridden by Alan Waldman. “Nick tried him once at my place, on my grass field. Although he was the most expensive 5-year-old I had ever sold, it was a very easy deal. Everyone had a smile on their face, because we all knew this was going to turn out good,” Waldman concludes about how one of the most successful combinations in the history of showjumping got together.


As told by Alan Waldman to World of Showjumping // Text © Peter van der Waaij for World of Showjumping // Picture © Jenny Abrahamsson

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