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From youngster to international Grand Prix horse: Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Daniel Deusser with Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z. "At the moment, I don’t know a Grand Prix that he could not jump," Deusser says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen



Competitive, elastic, scopey – just a few qualities that come to mind when thinking about the 12-year-old Zangersheide stallion Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z (Tangelo Vd Zuuthoeve x Mr. Blue). With Germany’s Daniel Deusser in the saddle, Tobago Z jumped home a team silver medal at his first major championship last year – the Longines FEI European Championships in Rotterdam.

For Jonas Bellemans, Tobago Z was the first foal he ever bred. “With Tobago, a whole new world opened up in front of me,” Bellemans tells.

Born 20 kilometres from Brussels in Belgium, Tobago was a natural talent right from the start. Tobago’s mother was Bellemans’ former Grand Prix horse Whoopie C. After the mare sustained an injury, Bellemans decided to start breeding with her. “It was the only thing I could do with her,” Bellemans recalls. “I chose Tangelo, because I heard he leaves nice, easy horses – and I like chestnuts.” Bellemans smiles. “Tobago’s mother was very hot and really careful, but difficult to ride. Tobago has definitely inherited her carefulness, but when it comes to rideability, he is the opposite – very easy. And he is much more flexible than his mother.” 

“Right from the start, Tobago was a natural talent,” Bellemans continues. “However, he was nearly too careful and at times he jumped too high. Therefore, I thought he perhaps would be a bit too careful for the bigger classes – on the other hand he had enough power and scope. He looked a little bit spooky sometimes, but he was always nice to ride.”

“You could describe his personality with three words; intelligent, nice and respectful. He is for sure the best horse I have ever had, and his mother the second best,” Bellemans tells about the stallion that he himself jumped at the FEI/WBFSH Jumping World Breeding Championship for Young Horses in Lanaken as a 5-year-old.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
“Right from the start, Tobago was a natural talent,” his breeder Jonas Bellemans tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Stephan Conter – CEO and founder of the Stephex Group – bought Tobago Z when he was a 7-year-old. From day one, the plan was that Daniel Deusser would be the rider on the talented chestnut.

“In the beginning, he could jump a very big single fence, but in the ring the rideability was not perfect. Everything came a little bit slow,” Deusser tells about his first feelings on Tobago Z. “When I asked him to collect, he reacted two strides later, if I wanted to go forward on the first distance, he did not really react on the leg. He was like a baby in that way,” Deusser explains. “However, on the fence, he always wanted to be careful! At our first shows together I had a lot of trouble with the control. It was not that he was running, but the reaction backwards and forwards just did not come in the right moment. Therefore, he was not ready to come with me to the bigger shows and do the youngster classes. Our solution was to give the ride on him to Jonna Ekberg instead, and let him gather some experience.”

Jonna Ekberg, Deusser’s colleague at Stephex Stables, took the 7-year-old all the way up to his very first world ranking class. “Tobago Z was always going to be Daniel’s horse,” Jonna explains. “I jumped him in his first ranking class at Sentower Park when he was eight, and took him with me to Oliva Nova when he turned nine. Mostly, we did classes at 1.35m-1.40m level, because he was very inexperienced. The jump was not the problem, we just needed to get some mileage on him. To get more routine, he needed to jump on sand, on grass, in many different rings.”

“I could feel all the quality and all the scope, he has always been a fantastic horse,” Jonna continues. “My first impression of him was that he was very, very careful – it was like he was allergic to the poles. Sometimes he was difficult to manage in between the jumps, but when he got to the fence, he didn’t want to touch it. And his technique was fantastic! Even though hard to manage at times, he has always been very soft and nice to ride. You can ride him in a normal snaffle in the ring. He is a small horse, but rides like a big one – he has a huge canter and is very elastic in his body.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
"He knows when he has to fight and give a little bit more of himself,” Deusser tells about Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“When I had him, he was cheeky,” Jonna continues. “He could be very fresh and you really had to pay attention. I think by now he has matured a lot! Stephan and Daniel always believed in him, and wanted to make sure we took our time with producing him in the best possible way. I think that Daniel has done an amazing job with Tobago Z. He is a horse with so much quality that you have to be mindful of not going too fast.”

“There was no pressure on us, I had my time,” Deusser fills in. “Tobago Z was always careful, and gave me a feeling that he wanted to be clear and do a good job in the ring. In the beginning, I tried to give him enough support, and get him to jump more forward. I think with having this support, he also grew in scope. When I started in the 1.45m and small 1.50m classes, the rounds were perhaps not perfect but we had results straight away. And this is why we continued with him; a careful horse with results, that wanted to improve – we felt that there was a lot he could do.”

“With the years he has realised which moments that count in the ring. He knows when he has to fight and give a little bit more of himself,” Deusser continues. “He has really grown a lot. I was not always sure that he could jump the biggest classes, because he is a small horse. When riding a Grand Prix course, the fences look really big when you sit on him. Also, he never really pulls you over the fences – on the opposite, he backs off as he is so careful. After all the rounds we have done, he has gotten a safe feeling and is more secure. Now he is confident to try even harder than before. At the moment, I don’t know a Grand Prix that he could not jump,” Deusser closes off.


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