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From youngster to international Grand Prix horse: Levis de Muze

Wednesday, 01 December 2021
From youngster to international Grand Prix horse

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ “For me, Levis stood out because of his breeding: His father is Elvis der Putte and his mother Heroine de Muze,” Joris De Brabander, the stallion's breeder, tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Greece’s Ioli Mytilineou and the 10-year-old BWP-stallion Levis de Muze (Elvis ter Putte x Tinka’s Boy) became the absolute crowd favourites at this summer’s European Championships in Riesenbeck. To learn more about Levis de Muze, World of Showjumping spoke with his breeder Joris De Brabander, Youssef Salmeron who rode the stallion until he was seven, and Ioli Mytilineou, who from the very first jump knew this horse was destined for greatness.

Not approved

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
“When he was turning three, I selected him out of my group of foals and took him to a stallion show in Opglabbeek. He did an amazing performance; he jumped very good – but he was not approved," Joris De Brander tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Levis de Muze was born at Stal de Muze in Belgium. “His type was not so beautiful, but he had a lot of quality,” Joris De Brabander recalls. “When he was turning three, I selected him out of my group of foals and took him to a stallion show in Opglabbeek. He did an amazing performance; he jumped very good – but he was not approved. The judges did not think he was beautiful enough. Youssef is a good client at Stal de Muze, and he had seen Levis before the approval. I had promised that if Levis was not approved, I would sell half of the horse to him – so I did.”

“For me, Levis stood out because of his breeding: His father is Elvis der Putte and his mother Heroine de Muze,” Joris continues. “He had all the ingredients to become a good horse. It is difficult to see the last quality in a youngster, but I sold him as a good horse. When Levis left and went to Morocco, I lost my feeling on him. That is my fault; I should have followed up better. However, it is nice for everyone that he turned out as he did; I am happy when the horses I breed turn out as great as him.”

A natural talent

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
"He is the easiest horse I ever rode, a natural talent," Youssef Salmeron, Levis de Muze's former rider, tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

When Youssef Salmeron first saw Levis at Stal de Muze, he was one of two horses that caught his eye. “I liked Levis, but I also liked Le Blue Diamond van’T Ruytershof – I wanted to buy half of both, but I did not have enough money, so I ended up with Levis as he was my first choice. Levis was like a little cat: He was super hairy, but he moved very nice and jumped so easy.”

When Levis arrived in Morocco, Youssef introduced him to the saddle. “I was surprised, Levis was so simple, it seemed like he knew it already, so I called Joris and asked if they already had him under the saddle,” Youssef recalls. “However, he said that was not the case. Levis was so sweet, but at the same time he was a little bit difficult with his mouth. We had to connect, but when he started to trust my hand, it all became easy. He is the easiest horse I ever rode, a natural talent. He was always a bit spooky about the things on the sides of the arena, but never on the jump.”

“Levis only started showing at the age of six,” Youssef continues. “While he was in Morocco, I was in France with the Moroccan team and then I broke my foot – so I did not have a lot of time for him. I knew he was a very good horse, though: At home in Morocco, he jumped out of all the paddocks – and the fences there are pretty high.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ. "I think this is only been the beginning for them,” Youssef Salmeron says about Levis de Muze and Ioli Mytilineou. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Levis’ stable name is Porky, which was given to him in during his time in Morocco. “When I was in France with the national team, Levis stayed in Tangier where I am based in my friends Alexandra and Alain’s stables. At that time, he was not working and only went to the paddock all day long, so he became a little fat. Therefore, Alain decided to name him Porky!”

“When Levis was seven, I went to the Sunshine Tour,” Youssef continues. “He had done five to six shows prior to that and was very green. However, everything was easy for him, he jumped clear all the time. At the end of the tour, he jumped better and better and as the fences got bigger, he only improved. The day before the final, the first fence was right next to the big screen in the main arena and it was the first time Porky jumped in this ring. When he saw the screen, he stopped four strides before. I took him over to have a look at the screen, and he understood there was nothing there to be afraid of, so I came around again and he finished clear.”

"The last day with the final was a 1.45m ranking class, and that was when Ioli and Hannah saw Porky. That day, I had the first down – the only one down during the whole tour – because I took the first distance and Porky decided to take the next... which was actually the better one. The rest was so easy for him," Youssef says.

“Ioli’s mother Hannah asked if Porky was for sale, and we met the day after to talk. However, there was one person who had asked for him already and was supposed to come for a trial. I think the stop the day before the final was decisive in the initial client's decision not to go for it and that's how Ioli got to try him. I asked to see Ioli ride, because I did not know her. I saw her riding and I thought she was very sweet with the horse, so I agreed for her to try Porky. It is a huge pride for me to follow their success now. I told them that I thought they could grow together, and I always knew the horse was a super star. I believed that if they would work hard, they could make it to Tokyo – and it was not too far from it. I think this is only been the beginning for them,” Youssef smiles.

One for the history books

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
"I've never been so excited to try a horse as I was with him!" Ioli Mytilineou says about Levis de Muze. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“The day before I first saw Porky jumping at the Sunshine Tour, he had already caught my attention – I had noticed Youssef get on him due to the fact that he looked so similar to a horse I had at the time, called Broadway,” Ioli Mytilineou recalls. “The next day I was having lunch, and just by chance, I saw this Broadway lookalike walk into the ring – so I thought I would watch him go. Coming to the first fence, he spooked though. He jumped the rest well, so my mum went to ask for him. Unfortunately, there was someone in line before me coming to try him, so I gave up on the idea that I'd even have a trial. I was sure that the first person to try him would buy him. However, very luckily for me, there was a turn of events and the trial was cancelled. I've never been so excited to try a horse as I was with him!" 

“You can see he has a sensitive mouth, but don't realize the extent until you sit on him,” Ioli tells. “So, when I first rode around, my initial thought was ‘oh goodness, I'm not quite sure this is for me’. However, as soon as we hopped the first jump, I instantly felt something special. Being at a show facility, I was only able to jump in the schooling area, so it was just a vertical and an oxer, but still, the feeling was amazing. It must have looked slightly different from the ground, because when I got off, although they did like him, I remember telling my mum and Harold that I needed this horse in my life – and they were like ‘wait really?’. I think they were surprised, as I'm generally quite picky and it is very rare that I love the feeling of a horse from a trial. But had they felt what I did, I can guarantee that they wouldn't have been surprised!" 

"Even now, watching those trial videos back, they were right; the look was not in any way comparable to the feeling," Ioli says. "We then organized a second trial at Abdel Said's farm in Belgium, where I was based at the time. I didn't think it would have been possible, but in this trial he jumped even better. I didn't jump big, as I did not feel the need to. Of course it always depends on what you're looking to test, but in general, I find that if I have a feeling of needing to jump big, it means I don't get a sense of natural scope in the horse. With Porky, I had that sense, so didn't need to push it. I asked Abdel to sit on him also, to see what he thought. He did a few jumps and said ‘yep, you need this horse’. There was, and still is, something undeniably special about him. Although there were a ton of amazing qualities I felt in the trial, there are a whole lot more that you don't know about until you spend time with him.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
"He is by far the smartest horse I have ever worked with, and probably ever will," Ioli Mytilineou tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“I knew from the first moment I sat on him that he was better than good,” Ioli continues. “When I got him, I actually did not show for quite a while. I kept him at home, jumped a bit to get to know him and really took my time getting the basics right – working on his ability to carry his own balance. We knew that once we got all that sorted, the size of the fence would not be an issue. We always took it very slow, until I went to Florida at the beginning of this year, where we started to move up the levels quicker. We always had the feeling that he could do it, so I never felt the need to unnecessarily push boundaries. We wanted to give him the confidence and were sure that if he believed in himself, he could do anything. I remember that as a 9-year-old, I had him in Knokke in the CSI2* jumping the 1.40m classes and I had a bunch of people asking why I wasn't doing the 3* Grand Prix since he is so good. But in my opinion, he was still so young with so much to learn and hopefully a long and successful career ahead of him – he had nothing to prove and I wanted to save him for the right time to shine. I am really happy with how we've decided to develop him and that he allows us to develop him in this way.”

Levis’ best quality is definitely his mind, Ioli tells. “He is by far the smartest horse I have ever worked with, and probably ever will. He is so aware of everything; himself and his surroundings. When you look into his eyes, you can really see that he is trying to make sense of the world around him. He is quite scared of fake horses, like a statue or a picture of a horse, which I think is due to him not being able to figure out how and why they're so similar to him, but somehow aren't him. His eagerness to please is another great quality: He is a people-pleaser who always wants to make the people around him happy. When he senses that the team are happy and proud, he is happier and prouder. You know exactly how he is feeling, just by the glimmer in his eye.”

For Ioli, the Europeans were an amazing achievement and an experience. “This time last year, it was always just a distant thought,” she says. “The fact that we managed to go and perform as we did, is an indescribable feeling that I will never forget and always cherish. I have never come away from a show with that amount of support from people, ranging from top riders to spectators to Chef d'Equipes. It was as if I was living in a dream: Going in, nobody knew our names and coming out, everyone knew us as a couple." 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ.
"It was as if I was living in a dream: Going in, nobody knew our names and coming out, everyone knew us as a couple," Ioli Mytilineou tells about this summer's European Championships. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“After Riesenbeck, I gave Porky an extensive break. All I want is for him to be happy to do what he does,” Ioli tells. “I don’t want him to see a fence and be like ‘ugh, again!?’. I want him to be as excited as I am to do what he does best. We generally keep his jumping limited, working mainly on the flatwork.”

Next up for Ioli and Levis de Muze is the prestigious CHI Geneva in December. “I am so grateful for this opportunity and I can't thank them enough,” Ioli tells. “It is incredible, so I am really trying to gear up and take every opportunity I can get and do the best I can with it. The week after Geneva, my horses fly to Florida. I was there last season and it was a new experience for me, but I think this time will again be a whole new experience. Last time, I was not high enough on the ranking list to jump any of the five-star weeks, so I'm really aiming to change that this year. Under the lights, five-star WEF Grand Prix, it is a big deal." 

“Any big class Porky and I have done has been my first step up with him and he has amazed me every single time,” Ioli continues to tell about Levis’ progress. “I would come out the ring and think ‘this horse cannot get any better’ – but then I'll come out the next time, and he'll have done something more. Every day, he manages to secure the fact that I truly believe he is a horse that will go down in history.”

 

No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping.com

 



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