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From youngster to international Grand Prix horse: Zinius

Tuesday, 29 May 2018
From youngster to international Grand Prix horse

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Doron Kuipers with Zinius. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Once upon the time he was close to unrideable, not to stop – even by a hedge or two, but according to his former rider Doron Kuipers that did not really matter as “he always had the jump”. Today, he leads the world ranking for jumping horses and is a through-and-through winner under Harrie Smolders. It’s time to catch up on how Zinius became one of the world’s best horses.

Kuipers got Zinius to ride when he was a 6-year-old, and it was an unplanned meeting between the two that would make them join paths. “I tried a horse of a friend of mine at Mario Everse’s stables, and I got talking with Mario who told me he perhaps had a few others I should try. Zinius was among them,” Kuipers recalls. “That was the first time I sat on him.”

“At that point Zinius had done one or two shows I think, and was still very green. The feeling he gave me on the jump was very, very good, but he was not all that rideable,” Kuipers laughs. “He was running and bucking a lot after the fences, playing around!”

However, the trying out ended with Kuipers getting three horses from Everse to ride and Zinius was one of them. “From there on, I put a lot of time into his flatwork to improve him. In the ring, he was always good though. He was never spooky and he always did his job,” Kuipers tells about Zinius’ early days. “In the beginning, I did a few 1.00m and 1.10m classes and then gradually stepped him up from there.”

“When he was seven, I jumped him in the World Breeding Championship in Lanaken. Even back then, he did it easy – although it was big. It never felt like anything was difficult for him. I would not say that he ever was spectacular, but he did a light job of whatever was presented to him,” Kuipers tells.

“That same year, in the autumn I jumped him in his first two-star Grand Prix in Wierden. I did not really have a horse for the class, so I thought ‘Let’s give it a go and see’. He did it easy and finished 8th. After that, I stepped him a bit down again as he was still so young.”

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Harrie Smolders with Zinius. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

“Zinius was not always easy though,” Kuipers tells. “There is a funny story when I was once jumping at home with my trainer, and Zinius kept on running and running after the jump. There were some hedges at the end of the outdoor and I thought I just steer him there to help stop him. But, he did not stop and just went straight through them and there I was in the middle of all those bushes having to turn around and try to get out,” Kuipers laughs.

“I think Zinius’ good fortune was that he never had to be my number one horse at all times. Sometimes, I would have other more experienced horses to ride and sell – which gave him the chance to be the second or third horse and at other times he had to step up and take the role as the one in front. When they are young and make it feel as easy as Zinius did, it is easy to go too fast but he never got that option even – he was always stepped up and down depending on the circumstances,” Kuipers tells.

“I used him for everything, derbies, six-bars, speed classes, even a pony-relay in Dublin once – you name it. He was always very versatile, and he loved whatever he was put to do. That is perhaps his strongest side: He just loves his job! In the end, we jumped the five-star Nations Cups and Grand Prix classes, but he could always be used for whatever you needed him for.”

“With Zinius, I always had a special connection and I always believed in him. Once he trusts you, he is a horse that would give you everything,” Kuipers says. 

After a very strong 2016-season with Kuipers in the saddle, Zinius was sold and Harrie Smolders took over the reins. Kuipers has been following closely ever since, and is nothing but proud of his former partner. “To watch Zinius with Harrie is amazing, I try to follow every round they do. He was always good when I had him, but now it’s just a different level. They are a super pair together.”

“Actually, I met Harrie at one point in Mechelen and he asked me a little about the equipment and routines we used to have for Zinius, and I thought that was really nice of him. There you have this great rider, one of the world’s best, but he still came to me to ask and find out how we used to do it,” Kuipers says.

“It feels kind of unreal now, knowing that Zinius is the highest ranked horse in the world – it’s a kind of ‘Wow’-feeling! That being said, Harrie did that last part and without him I don’t think Zinius would have become world no. one – so all the credits go to Harrie and his team,” Kuipers closes off. 


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