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From youngster to international Grand Prix horse: H&M Legend of Love

Tuesday, 19 May 2020
From youngster to international Grand Prix horse

Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson
"She is a horse with all the ability, and her attitude means a lot to me,” Olivier Philippaerts tells about H&M Legend of Love. Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson.

 

Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen

 


 

The now 14-year-old mare H&M Legend of Love (Landzauber x Corgraf) and Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts are surely one of the most popular combinations on the international showjumping circuit. The pair ranked fifth at the Longines FEI World Cup Finals in Gothenburg in 2019 as well as in Paris in 2018, and has recorded countless successes on five-star level. For Olivier himself, the most memorable achievements include a victory in the five-star Grand Prix of Mechelen in 2015 and placing second in the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva a year later.

To learn more about this extraordinary and feisty mare’s journey to the top, World of Showjumping spoke to Legend of Love’s former rider Gerald Nothdurf. “I bought Legend of Love when she was four-years-old,” Nothdurf begins. “I remember seeing her in the box… She looked angry with her ears backwards – so I had a lot of respect for her,” he recalls. “After seeing her free jumping, I said I would buy her – but on the condition that she would be under the saddle. Six weeks later, she came to my place.”

“Legend of Love would never buck or do anything silly. But, she would run,” Nothdurf smiles. “To make her wait was the biggest challenge. She was so fast, I had to use the fences to slow her down – then she would wait. The feeling on the jump was amazing from the very beginning. I think I will never get that feeling again, it was so special. She was a natural jumper, and I was impressed with her talent straight away. Even though she was difficult, I believed in her from day one.”

Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson
"I named her Legend of Love because she is hard to get to know, but once you know her, you absolutely love her," H&M Legend of Love's former rider Gerald Nothdurf explains. Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson.

“As to her personality, she knows what she wants,” he continues. “She has a strong character; she is a real mare – you cannot break her. Her personality is also the explanation for her name. I named her Legend of Love because she is hard to get to know, but once you know her, you absolutely love her. For me, there was a special connection with her.”

An unplanned foal left Legend of Love behind in her age group. “I went for a holiday, and my mother was looking after the horses,” Nothdurf recalls. “One day, Chilli Willi – who I had bought as a 3-year-old – jumped out of his paddock and ran into Legend of Love’s paddock. My mother did not tell me about this until three months later when she asked me to maybe let a vet have a look at Legend of Love, so I did. The vet came, said that she was doing very well – and that she was expecting a foal!”

After getting back to competition, Legend of Love was quickly discovered by the Philippaerts-family’s German contacts. “She had just jumped her first national 1.40m classes, when Olivier came to try her,” Nothdurf tells. “Normally clients can be quick to get off the horses after trying them, but not Olivier – he did not want to get off her,” he smiles. “It is nice to follow Legend of Love with Olivier, they are a great team. It is wonderful to see how long they have been successful at the highest level. We are still breeding with Legend’s mother, and at the moment we have six foals from that damline.”

“My first memory of Legend is being showed a video of her jumping in Germany,” Olivier Philippaerts tells. “We went to try her, and as we got there, we saw a grey mare with a very, very long neck. She looked a bit funny,” Olivier smiles. “Normally I am a very picky person when it comes to trying horses, and I am never really satisfied. But with Legend, I had this feeling right away – she could be something special for me. She had quality and scope,” he continues.

Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson
"The particular thing about her is that even though she will always remain a bit of a grumpy and sensitive mare, she wants to give her best in the ring," Olivier Philippaerts says. Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson.

“When I finished jumping, we talked about the price and were a bit disappointed because she was way over our budget. On the way home, I said to my father that I had the feeling that this horse was something special, something unique,” Olivier tells. “A few weeks later, Gerald called my dad and asked if I still wanted to ride Legend. Of course I did! Gerald drove to our place with Legend, and my dad took him for dinner. The day after, my dad told me he had bought her – and when I asked how he managed to do that, his answer was: ‘At 3 am, after a few glasses of whisky, we found a solution.’ That is how it all started,” Olivier laughs.  

“At the time, Legend was very inexperienced because she had had a foal – Child of Love – and she had no strength in her body, so I took my time with her,” Olivier recalls. “She is always very, very hot – and runs – and for a few years I tried to change that. We came to a point where we started to get some good results in the 1.45m classes. However, I still had moments of doubts, because she had so much blood – it was not so easy to control her. I was trying to make her adapt to a certain system; we tend to like our horses well educated and schooled, but she was something particular. She was not an ordinary horse that you could just ride in the classic way. One day, my dad just told me to leave her head up, and not think too much about it – and she was immediately better. Since then, I have tried to keep it very simple with her.”

“Obviously, she has stayed hot in the ring,” Olivier continues. “The particular thing about her is that even though she will always remain a bit of a grumpy and sensitive mare, she wants to give her best in the ring. At the moment, I ride her in the forest every single day. Normally when you get on her, her ears turn backwards, but when you get into the forest they turn forwards. She really enjoys it and I try to keep her very happy and fit. She is never going to be a dressage horse, but I do know that she is a great showjumper. She is a horse with all the ability, and her attitude means a lot to me.” 

 

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