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Road to recovery leads Hardin Towell to new partnership with Carollo

Thursday, 26 March 2020
Interview

Photo © Four Oaks Creative Hardin Towell has officially welcomed Anton and Michele Marano’s Carollo into his string at Oakland Stables. Photo © Callie Clement for Four Oaks Creative.

 

Written by Barre Dukes

 


 

Good things come to those who wait... And while many professional equestrians find themselves waiting for an unpredictable show schedule amidst major cancellations from the COVID-19 pandemic, one athlete in particular has been waiting much longer. American show jumper Hardin Towell has been itching to get back into the competition ring ever since November when a schooling mishap and five broken bones in his foot left him out of the saddle for more than three months. A slow, but steady road to recovery caused Towell to shift his sights from the quickly approaching Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) to the CSI2* at the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) of Miami the first week of April. But less than two weeks after his first ride back, the coronavirus had reached full force and US Equestrian (USEF) announced a 30-day competition suspension which was followed by recommended suspensions from the FEI. Every major competition for the foreseeable future has been cancelled or postponed, throwing yet another wrench into Towell’s return, but he’s taking it all in stride (and after three months on crutches, he’s finally able to).

“With everything going on right now, I actually have more time to recover. This whole winter we have been really busy with the shows – [my business partner] Darragh [Kenny] competing and myself training. This time is actually nice to get a little break,” admitted Towell. “Every single week during [the WEF] circuit we have a Monday or Tuesday to spend our time with our own horses but Wednesday through Sunday, our schedules revolve around the horse show and our clients’ schedules. Now, I can designate more time for my own horses, set a lesson or horse trial, and still have time to go to the physio and the gym. So now I’m really pushing towards getting myself back a lot stronger than before.”

Photo © Four Oaks Creative “My injury really helped me to see how much I love riding,” Towell said. Photo © Barre Dukes for Four Oaks Creative.

Increasing his strength and spending time with his own horses has become an increased priority for Towell as he officially welcomed Anton and Michele Marano’s Carollo into his string at Oakland Stables during the tenth and final week of WEF. With the horse show world on hold, the opportunity for Towell to add a new CSI5* mount in the 11-year-old Mecklenburg gelding has come full circle at the perfect time.

“I keep telling Hardin he has impeccable timing,” said Michele. “The shows are down and he has time to work on Carollo and get to know each other – for us, it’s perfect.”

However, it was a long time coming for Towell through his healing process: “It took about three weeks [after the injury] to finally get the surgery,” said Towell. “Afterwards the doctor told my dad and Darragh that I would probably be able to get back on a horse but that I would always have a limp and I was never going to be able to run again. When they told me that the next day it was really discouraging because I like to run, play soccer and tennis. A week later I went in for another x-ray and the doctor was amazed how good it looked. The doctor and my physio kept looking at it and it just kept getting better and better.”

Much like the progression of his recovery, Towell’s relationship with Carollo and the Maranos also didn’t happen overnight. Carollo’s owner Michele remembered the transition through the fall season, recalling, “When we were given a list of riders to contact some time in September, my mind immediately went to Hardin…So we scheduled a weekend for him to come out to Chicago to try the horses and at the same time, Sharn Wordley contacted us and said he was very interested in having Carollo for the Olympics.” As friends in the business Wordley knew he and Towell could reach an agreement in which Michele noted, “Hardin very graciously stepped back and said, ‘If Sharn wants Carollo for the Olympics, absolutely – that would be a wonderful match.’” 

Photo © Four Oaks Creative With the horse show world on hold, the opportunity for Towell to add a new CSI5* mount in the 11-year-old Mecklenburg gelding has come full circle at the perfect time. Photo © Callie Clement for Four Oaks Creative.

A horse that caught the eye of many, Carollo was an obvious and desirable choice for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The gelding skyrocketed to fame in July 2019 when he jumped three astounding clear rounds over 1.60m tracks under Andy Kocher in the $500,000 ATCO Queen Elizabeth II Cup CSI5* at Spruce Meadows – the same class in which Towell finished in second place aboard Oakland Stables’ own Joli Jumper as the only other pair in the jump-off after jumping the two initial rounds clear. A day that was memorable for Towell and the team at Oakland Stables, was also monumental for Carollo.

Towell was just making his return to riding when Wordley reached out to Michele to let her know he didn’t think that he would be going to Tokyo as New Zealand was a small team and the projections for the now-cancelled Olympic Games remained unclear: “We had a nice conversation and I said, ‘Well if that’s the case then I’m going to switch horses on you – I’m going to give you our mare and I’m going to give Hardin Carollo,’” said Michele. “I think Sharn has done a phenomenal job – Carollo is completely fit and he is very happy and he’s been training every day...it’s been a really amazing transition.”

“It’s nice for us – we have two great athletes on our horses and we’re blessed to have these horses,” said Michele as Wordley will now compete Cosmona, the 9-year-old Danish Warmblood mare previously ridden by Kocher, while Towell rides Carollo. “It’s kind of a fluke that we even have them. I think people go their whole lives and try to get this type of a horse and my husband and I just bought them five years ago.” 

With the Olympic Games now postponed until 2021, Michele smiled at Wordley’s acknowledgement that it may now be possible for the Maranos to have both of their horses competing in Tokyo as Wordley and Towell will reassess their plans for the coming year, riding under their respective countries

Photo © Four Oaks Creative “I think the timing is right for us to team up,” said Towell of his new partnership with Carollo. Photo © Callie Clement for Four Oaks Creative.

The transition of the Marano’s mounts came in the peak of Towell’s recovery: “[After removing the pin from my foot] the recovery went pretty quick. I made up my mind that I was tired of not riding,” said Towell. “I think your body tells yourself – the first day back riding it didn’t totally feel right and then the second day I was able to get my foot back in a boot. And I’ve just been going since then.”

“I think the timing is right for us to team up,” said Towell of his new partnership with Carollo. “He is way bigger than the type of horse that I normally ride. He has a lot of blood and I like that, I think we suit each other really well.”

“My injury really helped me to see how much I love riding,” Towell continued. “Even when I started back, the second day I stopped being a passenger and making the horses work to accomplish something. In some ways my injury was able to help our business [of Oakland Stables] because Darragh was really busy showing and I was really busy training this winter. As our business grows we’re always trying to find things that meet in the middle and it was nice to experience a different approach to the management of our horses and students.”

The remainder of the 2020 competition year remains unclear, but with a fresh mind and a new mount, Towell is eager for all that is to come with his team at Oakland Stables and the impressive gelding, Carollo.

 

No reproduction without permission, copyright © Four Oaks Creative

 

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