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From youngster to international Grand Prix horse: Nevados S

Wednesday, 03 February 2021
From youngster to international Grand Prix horse

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping "I honestly could not tell from the beginning that he would become a championship horse," Gregory Wathelet tells about his European team gold medalist Nevados S. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Nevados S (Calvados Z x Romualdo, bred by Stanislaw Szurik) first jumped into the international spotlight when he won the FEI World Breeding Jumping Championship for 7-year-olds in Lanaken back in 2015, with Gregory Wathelet in the saddle. Three years later, in the summer of 2018, Nevados placed second in the five-star Grand Prix in Estoril. From there on the stallion went from strength to strength and a few months later he won the four-star Grand Prix in Liege. In 2019, Nevados was on the winning Belgian team at the European Championships in Rotterdam. Last year, he won the CSI5* Grand Prix in Valkenswaard and the CSIO3* Grand Prix in Vilamoura. We speak with Gregory Wathelet and catch up with the stallion’s former rider Przemyslaw Konopacki to learn about Nevados’ journey to the top. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Nevados S had outstanding quality from the beginning, his former rider Przemyslaw Konopacki tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Nevados came to my stables in Holland in 2013, when he was five,” Konopacki tells. “He arrived with a group of horses belonging to the Makrum Jumping Team, that I had co-operation with at the time.”

“From the beginning, I could feel that Nevados had outstanding quality,” Konopacki says about the stallion, that at the time already had won the Polish Championships for young horses twice – in 2012 and 2013. “His biggest asset was his attitude though. Very often, horses with this kind of quality can be a handful and need extra attention and work – but he was very easy going. As a jumper, Nevados was brave, careful and never spooky. He had an amazing shoulder technique which allowed him to jump bigger with little effort. Nevados was also sensitive, but in a good way. He gave me the feeling he would end up doing something extraordinary.”

“There is of course always something to work on, but there were not any negatives with him,” Konopacki continues. “He was a little bit downhill when he was younger, but it improved over time. With horses like Nevados, the rider has an easier job – it’s mainly to guide them in the right direction.”

“It has been great to follow him,” Konopacki says. “It’s always a pleasure to see horses you have had at a young age reach the top. This has also helped me when I now buy my own young horses, I know what they should feel like and can recognise the quality.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping In 2015, Wathelet took Nevados S to the FEI World Breeding Jumping Championship in Lanaken just to give him the experience but ended up with the gold medal. Here with Bernard Demets, who helped bring the two together, and Nevados' former owner Rafał Jerzy. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Another rider that knows what a good horse should feel like is Gregory Wathelet, who has produced countless of horses for the very top of the sport. The Belgian rider was first introduced to Nevados in the autumn of 2014, when he was asked if he would be interested in taking over the ride. Wathelet went to try Nevados shortly after the FEI World Breeding Jumping Championship in Lanaken, where Nevados – then six – had jumped with Konopacki. 

“My first feeling on Nevados was that he was very careful, and he was nice to ride,” Wathelet tells. “I was a bit unsure about his scope though, but he definitely had quality. We agreed that he would come to my place, and around two weeks later he arrived.”

“Nevados was always quite easy to ride,” Wathelet tells. “However, his balance was a bit downhill and he would always drift a bit to the right. Still today he does it from time to time. He was a sensitive horse though. I had to be careful with a few things, as he could get easily stressed – especially when he came to the shows, it would take him the first day to calm down. He was never difficult in the sense that he is a stallion, just a bit stressed. Nevados is a pleasure to ride though, and uncomplicated.”

“We found together quite quickly. We started up at the Sunshine Tour in 2015 and then after I took him to Lummen for the youngster classes. At the end of the outdoor season, I decided to jump him at the FEI World Breeding Jumping Championship for 7-year-olds where he ended up winning,” Wathelet tells. “At that time, for me, there was still a lot to improve with him. I did not have the control that I like to have on my horses, but he had so much quality and was so careful which was why I decided to go there – just to give him the experience. He ended up jumping really good in the qualifications and made it to the final. That was a very big class, and I thought it was going to be quite something for him to jump. Then he was double clear and won. This was a turning point for me, and what made me think he perhaps had the power to do the top sport – because the final was really something to jump for a 7-year-old.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. “I often heard from others that he did not have the scope and power for the really big sport, but I always thought he had a bit more inside," Wathelet tells about Nevados S. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“The sensitive side of Nevados also showed in the way that I had to get his trust before jumping the bigger classes with him,” Wathelet explains. “I often heard from others that he did not have the scope and power for the really big sport, but I always thought he had a bit more inside. On the other hand, there is a difference between being a super competitive horse at a high level and a horse that can consistently deliver clear rounds in five-star Nations Cups and in championships – and I have to be honest and say that I was not convinced about the latter. This was also a bit the same with Coree; she was really careful, but I did not know if she had that last bit to jump the biggest classes. However, when the horses really trust you – when you take the time and give them the right plan – my experience is that they find the power to do it as long as they have the quality. “

“I think Nevados’ biggest luck was that he had to step in for a few of my other top horses,” Wathelet continues about the stallion’s breakthrough at the highest level. “He got a chance, and this made him improve. At this time, he was 10 and he was a super 1.50m horse for me – I used him a lot in those kinds of classes where he was competitive and fast. Unfortunately, at this time, Coree and Eldorado both got injured, while Forlap had his accident and had passed away and suddenly I was without any of them. I remember well that I was in Hamburg, and Nevados jumped so good on the second day that I was thinking to jump him in the Grand Prix. However, I decided to wait. A few weeks later, he was 7th in the CSIO5* Grand Prix in St. Gallen and two weeks after he finished 2nd in the CSI5* Grand Prix in Estoril. That was when I thought ‘Wow, he can really do it!’ From there on, he really improved and suddenly we were on the long-list for the World Equestrian Games in Tryon – this was not even in my thoughts in April that same year. Then he started to do all the big Grand Prix classes and just did it easier and easier.”

“While I always thought he was a good horse and had quality, I was not sure what he would end up jumping in the end. It was not like with Cortes, Conrad or Lantinus – those kind of horses – where you straight away know they can do anything. I honestly could not tell from the beginning that he would become a championship horse. To me it’s a proof of what time and trust can do,” Wathelet closes off. 

 

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