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From youngster to international Grand Prix horse: Gazelle

Wednesday, 21 April 2021
From youngster to international Grand Prix horse

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.
Aachen, Geneva, Madrid, New York, Tryon, Spruce Meadows and St. Moritz… Gazelle – bred by Wendel Heuninckx – has won one five-star Grand Prix after the other with USA’s Kent Farrington in the saddle. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Aachen, Geneva, Madrid, New York, Tryon, Spruce Meadows and St. Moritz… The now 15-year-old BWP-mare Gazelle (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Indoctro) – bred by Wendel Heuninckx – has won one five-star Grand Prix after the other with USA’s Kent Farrington in the saddle. Adding some of the most prestigious Grand Prix-titles in the world to their names, the pair topped the 2017 Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva and the 2019 Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen. Last week, they were selected to the US short list for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

However, when World of Showjumping looked closer at Gazelle’s journey to stardom, it turned out that when she was younger there was a fair share of doubts as to whether or not she would be good enough for the very top of the sport. There were two Belgians that always believed in her though: Kurt De Clercq and Stephan Conter.

“We bought her when she was three months old,” Kurt De Clercq tells World of Showjumping about Gazelle. “We used to own her mother, that was sold to Axel Verlooy. Afterwards, we bought Gazelle together with Jan Wuytack. Gazelle was a beautiful foal – she had everything you want to see. When she was young, she had two foals herself, both by Darco – a colt named King Kong and a filly called Jess.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.
"She is a real fighter in the ring, and she has a good heart. Now, with the right rider, she jumps incredible – with another rider, I don’t think she would do the same," her former rider Kurt De Clercq says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Gazelle was a special mare, she was the lady of the stables,” De Clercq tells. “When Gazelle was five, I rode her on the Belgian young horse circuit, and she jumped double clear ten times. One year later, she did the circuit again and was good – not super, but good.”

“When she turned seven, we had a client – a very good rider – trying her twice,” De Clercq continues. “During the trials, Gazelle jumped really well – I was so enthusiastic about the quality she showed. This client liked her, however, was of the opinion that Gazelle was a horse that would probably not be able to jump at big venues like Aachen. In retrospect, it is a funny story,” he smiles. “However, this was understandable. Gazelle was top careful and the quality was there, but at that young age it was hard to tell if she had the last scope necessary to jump the biggest competitions. The fact that she turned out to win some of those competitions in question, is incredible.”

Later on - when she was 7-years old – Gazelle was sold to Stephan Conter’s Stephex Stables and then on to Kent Farrington. “It has been nice, seeing her do so well,” De Clercq says. “We are always pleased to see that the horses do well when they leave our stables. Even though the feeling on her was unbelievable, I did not think she would end up doing what she has done. I believe that it is her mentality that has made all the difference: She is a real fighter in the ring, and she has a good heart. Now, with the right rider, she jumps incredible – with another rider, I don’t think she would do the same.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.
"I believed that Gazelle and Kent would match in a very special way, and I pushed for them to come together," Stephan Conter tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

For Stephan Conter, it was love at first sight. “I was impressed by Gazelle from the first moment I saw her,” he tells. “However, she was sold to someone else, so I thought I was too late. But I knew that I needed to keep trying. I could see something special in her.”

Since the match with her new rider was not perfect, Conter eventually managed to buy the mare. “I gave Gazelle to one of my riders to compete, and I was totally smitten,” he recalls.

It was Gazelle’s intelligence that captivated Conter. “Working with her every day, we could see that she wanted to do well, wanted to jump clear – she was a fighter,” he explains. “Gazelle always tried to figure out how to get out of a difficult situation herself. She always remained cool.” 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.
"For me, she was a Grand Prix mare from the beginning," Stephan Conter says about Gazelle – here seen with former Stephex-rider Eiken Sato. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“When we bought her, Gazelle did not show the last scope. However, she was so athletic – you could see she had all the ability,” Conter explains. “In my opinion, she needed to be partnered up with one of the world’s top jockeys to get the last ten centimetres of scope. So, one day, I called Kent and told him if he was looking for a special horse, I had something for him.” 

Conter believes that with Farrington, Gazelle found her perfect match. “This is the most important thing for any horse,” Conter says. “They have to end up with the right rider: The ideal match is needed in order to be successful at the very top of the sport. I believed that Gazelle and Kent would match in a very special way, and I pushed for them to come together. And with Kent, she got that last scope she needed.”

Gazelle’s mindset is what Conter says has helped her become the star she is today. “Her mind is her best quality: She wants to do well. She has never been a spectacular jumper, but she has always had a mind of a winner. I really believed in her. For me, she was a Grand Prix mare from the beginning. However, she needed the right rider who would make her believe she could jump the biggest tracks in the world.”

 

No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping



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