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From youngster to international Grand Prix horse: Kalinka van de Nachtegaele

Tuesday, 03 January 2023
From youngster to international Grand Prix horse

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
"I think she is a horse that still has her best years ahead of her," Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli says about her feisty chestnut mare Kalinka van de Nachtegaele. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

With Sweden’s Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli in the saddle, the now 13-year-old mare Kalinka van de Nachtegaele (Epleaser van’T Heike x Cicero Z, bred by Marcel Jacobs) opened the 2022 indoor season in Helsinki, Finland, with winning both the CSI5*-W Grand Prix and the Longines FEI World Cup. To learn more about this feisty chestnut, World of Showjumping spoke with Nick Vrins and Jorik Vervoort, who both rode Kalinka as a young horse, as well as Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli who has put the last pieces in the puzzle together to make the mare a complete top-level showjumper. 

All or nothing

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
"Since she was so special, I thought she had to end up with a really good rider," Kalinka van de Nachtegaele's former rider Nick Vrins tells about the mare – here with Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Nick Vrins rode Kalinka when she was five. “Back then I worked for Erik Lanner, who does all the young horses from Kalinka’s breeder,” Vrins explains. “We immediately saw that Kalinka was something special. In the beginning it was a little bit difficult, because she has so much blood. However, the jump was there and in the ring she always wanted to go. Since she was so special, I thought she had to end up with a really good rider – she was very sensitive and bloody. Now she is in the right place, and I am really happy about that. In her case, I thought it would be all or nothing, depending on who would end up riding her.”

In her case, I thought it would be all or nothing

“She is a real mare, but she can jump and she is very careful,” Vrins continues. “Sometimes she gets too hot, but when you get it right, she can jump everything there is in this world. As a young horse, she was brave and easy to handle. She might not have been the most beautiful, but when you saw her in the stable, you were immediately convinced that she would become a Grand Prix horse; she is tall and impressive, she always stands with the head up and has big eyes – she is a tough one. Angelica does it so well with her, and they deserve all the success they have enjoyed.” 

Special 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
“You really need to get to know her,” Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli says about Kalinka van de Nachtegaele. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ.

When Kalinka moved to Paul Peeters’ stable as a six-year-old, Jorik Vervoort got the ride on the mare. “Our first show was not really a success, I will never forget it,” Vervoort recalls with a smile. “Kalinka was a real mare, and the thing with her was that she wanted to do everything at such a high speed. We were in Moorsele, and she jumped a two-stride double on one stride. We fell and I broke my collarbone.”

“In the beginning, she was very special,” Vervoort continues. “Even at home, riding was complicated; she would bite me in my legs. It was a long way, getting to know her and her character. We tried many things, and in the end the only solution was simply to respect how she was and do everything as she wanted it – she is not a classic horse and training in a traditional way with her was impossible.” 

It was a long way, getting to know her and her character

“After a few months, I started to work with Jan Simons and did dressage lessons with Kalinka under his eye,” Vervoort tells. “We did a lot of ground work, also lose work without a saddle, to make sure we were working as a team. Step by step, she started to trust me. I also did a lot of lose jumping with her, and after a few weeks of only lose jumping, I started to tack her up straight after and then did the same line with me riding her. With time, she started to relax and use her body better. The first good result we got together was a final for seven-year-old horses in Gesves, where we placed third and qualified for the World Championship in Lanaken. When she was seven, I jumped the CSI2* Grand Prix in Mechelen with her.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ “In the beginning, she was very special,” Kalinka van de Nachtegaele's former rider Jorik Vervoort tells about the mare as a 6-year-old. Here the now 13-year-old mare with Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli at the 2021 European Championships. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Once I got to know her, she was a real fighter, and she had so much scope,” Vervoort says. “She is definitely not easy to handle, but she is a true fighter once she trusts you. What she did on a fence kept me going through the tough times; she was so scopey and so careful. The feeling on her was unbelievable; it felt like you could ride towards a wall of two meters and she would jump.”

Kalinka’s mentality and scope convinced me from the beginning

“After I stopped working at Rostal, Brecht Bille rode Kalinka for a few months before she went to Angelica,” Vervoort tells. “I have been in touch with Angelica, and I told her what I had done with the mare. I always believed in Kalinka and it is a pleasure to follow them now. Kalinka’s mentality and scope convinced me from the beginning, and it is nice to see how she is now becoming the horse I believed she could be. I must say I have Jan Simons to thank for a lot, he helped me so much with Kalinka. She was so difficult, and without Jan on my side I think it would have been a completely different story. The quality that she has was just waiting to get out and even though it took some time, she has now proven herself.” 

Unbelievable fighter

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
"It has been a long way with Kalinka, and even though her results have been good, we have also had some ups and downs," Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“When I saw Kalinka for the first time, she was seven and Jorik was riding her,” Augustsson Zanotelli begins. “She was owned by Mr. Peeters and I asked if she was for sale – and he said no. Two years later, when Kalinka was nine, Mr. Peeters called me and said he remembered how I liked Kalinka and asked if I would be interested in riding her – and of course I was! When we talked about trying her, I remember how he told me I would be better off keeping Kalinka for a few days instead of just trying once; he said she was not so easy to ride. So, we did that, and yes, she was special, in many ways.” 

Her best quality is that she is an unbelievable fighter

“You really need to get to know her,” Augustsson Zanotelli continues. “My first feeling was that she had a lot of ability. I got the feeling that she was very careful and scopey, but back then she did not have the same scope that she has now. I really like feeling a lot of potential in a horse and a challenge of getting it out. You could see from the beginning that Kalinka is a horse that really has to trust her rider, and many times those type of horses turn out to be very good. It has been a long way with Kalinka, and even though her results have been good, we have also had some ups and downs. She is very sensitive to the environment around her; she doesn’t like too many people standing around in the warm-up, she doesn’t like it when it gets too loud… there are many things that make her nervous and stressed, and then it is hard to calm her down again. However, I have learned what to avoid, and how to keep her calm – that’s when she can perform the best.”

“Her best quality is that she is an unbelievable fighter, and that she has extreme self-confidence,” Augustsson Zanotelli says. “However, that has also been the challenge with her; many times, she doesn’t really listen to her rider because she is so strong minded. With age, she is only getting better and I think she is a horse that still has her best years ahead of her. I have secured her now; Malin Sköld and Jennifer Carmichael bought her together, so I know she will stay with me – which is great. I am excited for the future with her!” 

 

3.1.2023 No reproduction of any of the content in this article will be accepted without a written permission, all rights reserved © World of Showjumping.com. If copyright violations occur, a penalty fee will apply. 

 



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