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From youngster to international Grand Prix horse: Chaqui Z

Tuesday, 19 September 2017
From youngster to international Grand Prix horse

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Chaqui Z with Shane Sweetnam in the saddle at the Europeans in Gothenburg. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

If there was one horse that caught everybody’s eye at the European Championships in Gothenburg, it was Shane Sweetnam’s Chaqui Z. Producing three clear rounds in a row to help Team Ireland to their first gold medal in sixteen years, Chaqui Z was a key player in the Irish success.

American-owned, Irish-ridden, Zangersheide-registered – but it all started in De Lutte, in the northern part of Holland. Born at the Morsink-family’s stables in May 2006, Chaqui Z was something special right from the beginning. A son of the now legendary Chacco-Blue and the grand-son of Gerben Morsink’s mare Calina Z, Chaqui Z was anything from an ordinary foal.

“It all started with Chaqui Z’s grandmother Calina Z,” Gerben Morsink – now 29-years-old – tells World of Showjumping. “Together with Calina Z, I won team gold and individual silver at the Europeans for juniors back in 2005. We had a special connection, she would always go for it and had the scope – but perhaps the rideability could have been a little better, although it’s hard to say if that could also be because I could have been a better rider back then as well,” Morsink laughs. “But, before that – in 2001 – we were looking into putting Calina in foal and we saw Quinar at Zangersheide. We decided to go for him thinking he could be a good fit. The result was Calina’s daughter Quilina Z, born in 2002,” Gerben tells looking back. “Quilina Z actually followed Zekina Z –  born in 2001 – that went on to have a very successful career under Jane Richard Philipps at the highest level of the sport.”

“Three years later, we decided to put Quilina Z in foal too. We had no idea what she was like under the saddle, so we chose Chacco-Blue as he looked easy to ride, had a clever look and had proven himself in the sport as well. We thought it might be a good fit, and it was!” Morsink smiles.

“One year later Chaqui Z was born. He is actually a unique breed, because very sadly Quilina Z passed away when she was pregnant with her second foal. The foal did not lie in the correct position, and we rushed to the clinic in the hope that we could save at least one of them – but unfortunately both the mare and the foal died,” Gerben tells about Quilina Z’s short life.

Photo (c) Sportfot (with permission). Gerben Morsink with Chaqui Z at the FEI World Breeding Championships for 7-year-olds in 2013. Photo (c) Sportfot (with permission).

Chaqui Z stood out from the beginning: “Chaqui had these intelligent eyes, and always looked like a clever horse,” Gerben tells. “He never did any stupid things as a foal or a youngster, instead he always gave you the feeling he knew what was going on around him. Already as a young horse, Chaqui had a very good overview – also inside the ring. I would say he was close to a perfect horse.”

“My brother was the first one to sit on him, he usually goes on the young horses a few times when they are 2 ½-years-old and then if they are easy going they go back out in the field. Chaqui was so simple, a really nice horse who got it straight away so my brother told me to put him back out again,” Gerben tells.

When Chaqui Z was started up again as a 4-year-old, he was the best in his age group from the beginning. “We had three other horses at his age, and they were all good – but Chaqui was special,” Gerben says. “He had to learn, but you could feel jumping a 1.10 course that he knew what he was doing. It was always a pleasure to ride him; he was balanced, pulled you to the jump, was quick in front even if you came fast and was in general a really nice horse to have in the ring. And of course, he was careful and scopey. I guess he got the best from both his parents, but the balance and canter he definitely got from Chacco-Blue.”

“He never needed anything special, just a simple snaffle. You just put a bridle and a saddle on and you were ready to go. At home, everybody could ride him – even my little niece,” Morsink laughs.

“Chaqui was also very easy to handle. Before he was five, he did not even show that he was a stallion. When he turned six, he became a bit more awake and you could feel him different but he was never dangerous or stupid. You never got the feeling he got distracted either, he would look around him but always kept his focus,” Gerben says.

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Chaqui Z with Shane Sweetnam in the Nations Cup in Falsterbo earlier this year. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Gerben Morsink jumped Chaqui Z at the FEI World Breeding Championships three years in a row, when he was 5, 6 and 7-years-old. “He went on to jump in the final all three times, but the last year I was quite mad with myself because I had a time-penalty and it was my own fault. The horse really wanted to go clear, so I was actually a bit upset with myself after,” Morsink smiles.

“We always knew that Chaqui would be good, and early on it was clear he was something special,” Gerben explains about the now 11-year-old stallion’s abilities. “As a 5 and 6-year-old he was great and as 7-year-old he jumped his first two-star Grand Prix and was clear. Horses like him a really rare, so of course the offers started to come. I would really have loved to have kept him myself, but neither did I have a sponsor nor a second horse that could have backed him up at that time – which put me in doubt as to whether or not it was the right thing to hold on to him.”

At one point, Shane Sweetnam came to try Chaqui Z – and the rest, as we like to say, is history. “Shane was really honest, and told me he wanted him to produce him on to his number one horse. So, we made the hard decision to sell,” Gerben tells looking back.

“It has been great to follow Chaqui with Shane though, my wife and I went to visit him in Florida and then we were present at the Europeans when he won the team gold. He did it so easy, it was really nice to watch. Even on the last day, it looked like he could have jumped three more rounds – he was just unlucky not to get an individual medal as well. Shane is a super rider, and he did a great job with Chaqui! For sure Chaqui could have been good with other riders too, but perhaps not as good as with Shane!” Gerben says.

Although Gerben does not have Chaqui anymore, the dream lives on through the 7-year-old Rapidash Z. “Actually, one of our friends was among the first to breed with Chaqui and the result was Rapidash. Now, he is qualified for the FEI World Breeding Championships in Lanaken, so I look forward to jump him there later this month. He has the same overview as his dad, and might be a future super star too! In general, I have to say that all the 3- and 4-year-olds I have seen by Chaqui look nice – they have the same kind of calmness and overview as their father and this I really like in a horse,” Gerben concludes.


Text © World of Showjumping by Jannicke Naustdal // Pictures © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson and Sportfot (with permission)

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