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From youngster to international Grand Prix horse: Clinta

Wednesday, 29 April 2020
From youngster to international Grand Prix horse

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping “Her jump was always something special," Manuel Fernandez Saro tells about Clinta, that he rode as a 6-year-old. Here Clinta is seen with McLain Ward at the World Equestrian Games in 2018. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping



There is a saying that sometimes you need to get lost to find your way. Watching Clinta in the ring with McLain Ward – jumping to team gold at the World Equestrian Games in 2018 – you might not think that this was ever the case for this powerful mare. But, believe it or not – it was. Clinta’s journey took her from Spanish rider Manuel Fernandez Saro – who rode her the year she was six, to Great Britain, then to Germany – where she changed riders several times before she ended up at Paul Schockemöhle’s stables. There, the grey mare found her match – and her way. 

This is the story about Clinta’s journey to the top of the sport, told by Manuel Fernandez Saro – better known as Fanfa, as well as Stacy Willsone and Philip Rüping. 

“It was the autumn of 2012, and I was in the car with Andreas Knipling on the way to the show in Kiel, Germany,” Fanfa tells about his first encounter with Clinta. “We were driving up north when Andreas said he wanted us to try a horse on the way. We arrived, and the horse was quite normal. However, the guy who showed it told us that he had another 5-year-old mare that just had come in. He said she was very green, but had a lot of quality. That was Clinta. After I had tried her, we ended up buying her for a Danish girl that was training with us at the time and who was looking for a good young horse.”

“Her jump was always something special, and more than a few times I had stewards coming to me telling me off – but it was just her way of doing it. Even normal baby-boots could be too much for her,” Fanfa tells about Clinta’s over-achieving nature. 

Watch Clinta as a 6-year-old with Manuel Fernandez Saro

“During 2013, when she was 6, Clinta developed really well. However, the girl who owned her decided to sell her. There were some really good riders trying her, but they did not pull through. The price was high, and I also think that they thought that with a careful horse like her it could go both ways – either you would end up with one of the best horses in the world or the limit would be reached at 1.45-1.50m. If the latter was the case, it was too much risk considering the price tag,” Fanfa explains. 

“When Clinta was sold, it was to British rider Stacy Willsone who rode her shortly before Daniel Neilson took her over and continued to develop her. In the late summer of 2015, Clinta was sold on to Alexander Onischenko. After, she had several different riders on her – and during that time I think she got quite lost. She was a very special mare, and you had to do it the right way with her otherwise she quickly got unhappy,” Fanfa tells.

“Luckily for Clinta, Paul Schockemöhle bought her in the summer of 2016 – together with several of Onischenko’s other horses,” Fanfa continues. “Then, Philip Rüping started to ride her. When I saw her again with him, I got really happy! He did an amazing job with her and restored her confidence and trust. To see her with McLain has also been great. Although she was always something special, she is definitely a mare who needs a rider who can do it too and who understands her.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping “It was an unbelievable journey with her, and she ended up being one of the best horses I have ever had,” Philip Rüping tells about Clinta, here seen jumping in Aachen in 2017. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Former owner Stacy Willsone has also enjoyed following Clinta's journey to the top. She still recalls the day she bought Clinta from Shannon Ketterle of Shannon Sporthorses and Samina Hayat, that owned the mare at the time. “I remember calling my dad after we had tried her, saying to him ‘we have bought a super-star, I’m sure of it!’ Clinta went on to jump 66 clear rounds, and at every show somebody would ask about her,” Willsone tells. “I’ve been lucky enough to own some fantastic horses, but Clinta always stood out as being the best. Clinta not only jumped over the wings on every fence, she also has the biggest heart and always wants to please. She was a pleasure to have around too. She was, and will always be, my favourite and I feel very grateful to have owned her. Now I’m delighted she is being ridden by one of the best riders in the world. I still get the same goose bump feeling when I watch them together as I did when I owned her!” Willsone tells.

About a year after leaving Willsone, Clinta arrived at Schockemöhle’s yard in Mühlen, Germany. It was the summer of 2016, and Clinta came together with a big group of other horses that belonged to Onischenko. Schockemöhle gave the ride on Clinta to Philip Rüping, and while they did not know it at the time it was the beginning of a beautiful adventure. 

“The first time I jumped her, I could immediately feel that she was extremely careful,” Philip tells. “It was also obvious that she had a big heart and a super attitude towards her job. However, she was a bit too ambitious at times – she wanted to do too good, and ended up rushing herself.”

After working Clinta at home for a month, Philip brought her with to a national show in the north of Germany. “I jumped her in the 1.35m and 1.40m classes. She felt good, and very careful but if you would have told me back then what she would end up doing I would not have believed it! Her ambitiousness stole away from her capacity, she was hectic and struggling with cross-canter on the right rein.” 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping "You had to give her the best feeling possible on every single jump in order for her to have confidence and trust in you as a rider,” Philip Rüping tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Then I took her with me to the four-star show in Münster to jump the Medium Tour. I have to be honest and say I had my doubts. It is big enough there, and she was very inexperienced at that time. Before coming to me, she had mostly jumped 1.40m classes and only a couple of 1.45m at one show. On top, I had only known her for a very short period of time. However, Clinta went out and jumped clear in every class – even finishing 3rd in the 1.50m the last day. That was the first time I had the feeling that she might be more than I had thought,” Philip tells. “At that stage, I also happened to talk to Fanfa who told me that he thought she had been really special as a young horse. That also made me think…” 

“After Münster, Clinta kept on jumping clear rounds. She was definitely not perfect, but she wanted to do the job and to be clear. I kept on investing a lot of time in her flatwork to improve her rideability, and to get rid of her problems with the cross-canter,” Philip explains.

From there on, the pair went from strength to strength and in February 2017 they won their first international 1.55 together. “It was an unbelievable journey with her, and she ended up being one of the best horses I have ever had,” Philip tells about the mare that took him all the way to Aachen – the holy grail of showjumping. “When jumping her she was so careful and so sensitive. I don’t think I ever concentrated as much on every single jump as I did on her – at home or at the show. The key was to make her relax, because all the rest was there in her – but you had to give her the best feeling possible on every single jump in order for her to have confidence and trust in you as a rider.”

“I for sure think we had a special relationship in the end,” Philip tells. “Not only was she such an amazing partner in the ring, she was also the sweetest character in the stable – like a lamb. She was absolutely no diva, which she easily could have been. She was simply a really nice horse to be around.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping "With McLain she could make the next step, and today we all know what she is capable of," Philip Rüping tells about Clinta. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“It was a sad day when she left,” Philip says. “Not just because I lost my best horse for the sport, but because she at that stage had become my friend too.”

“Luckily, Clinta went on to McLain and all of the work I had put into her was not for nothing. With McLain she could make the next step, and today we all know what she is capable of. I have to say that McLain really did everything he could to get to know Clinta, to make it right for her. I did not expect it, but he kept in touch with me and would even call me after their rounds to discuss her. I do believe that McLain being so open helped them get their partnership together so quickly.”

“I am really glad Clinta went to McLain. He is one of the best riders in the world, and that is what she deserves,” Philip closes off.


No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

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