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Scott Brash: “The timing of when a horse comes to you in your career is very important”

Tuesday, 06 March 2018

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson
“Sanctos is a horse of a life-time for me,” Scott says. All photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Scott Brash needs little introduction. As Olympic team gold medallist from London 2012, world number one for eleven months in 2015-2016 and the only rider to have won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping with three major victories in Geneva, Calgary and Aachen, the 32-year-old has certainly written his name in the history books over the past few years. We sat down with the British rider to catch up on his super star Hello Sanctos, his new line-up of horses that include the exciting Hello Mr. President and how timing has played an important part in Scott’s life.

“Sanctos actually feels really good and is in training. I think he probably will be coming back. He certainly wants to!” Scott smiles when we ask him how his Olympic mount is doing at the moment. “For me, as a rider, it wouldn’t bother me if he retired tomorrow, because he has done everything possible for me. I don’t feel he needs to do anything more. But for the horse himself, you can tell that he doesn’t want to stop! I have never felt him so fresh as he is right now.” Sanctos has just started to jump small things at home. “We will see how the training goes and take each week as it comes,” Scott says.

Sanctos has been absent from the international show circuit for nearly a year now. “He was showing at the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour in Oliva Nova last year, and he jumped really good. Then I did the show in Kronenberg with him and took him to s’Hertogenbosch as a third horse, and after that he picked up an injury. I have always taken my time with him – whatever time the vet has said Sanctos needed, I have nearly given him the double of that. I have tried to bring him back as strong as I can,” Scott says.

Hello Sanctos, that has just turned 16, is surely the horse everyone thinks of when the name Brash comes up. Having been his partner at the London Olympics, where the British team took a gold medal, Sanctos has been the maker of Scott’s career in many ways. But it was horses like Intertoy Z and Bon Ami that paved the way for Brash.

“Sanctos is a horse of a life-time for me,” Scott says. “But I think there have been a lot of key horses in my life. Intertoy Z was a fantastic horse for me, and my first ever Grand Prix horse. He won Grand Prix classes all over the world and he really brought me up to the top sport,” Scott says about the horse that he did his five-star debut with and that took him to his first championships. “He really gave me the experience I needed to then go on to have a horse like Sanctos. I think if Sanctos had come first in my career, it just might not have been the same.” Bon Ami was an out-and-out winner for Brash and an amazing second horse to have. “I think I have been very lucky to have such incredible horses,” he says.

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Scott Brash with Intertoy Z: “He really gave me the experience I needed to then go on to have a horse like Sanctos."

Scott believes the experience he gathered with Intertoy Z and Bon Ami prepared him for the next level – that being Hello Sanctos. “I think the timing of when a certain horse comes to you in your career is very important. Having Bon Ami and Intertoy at the start really put me in the top sport,” he explains. “But, then when I got Sanctos, it really kick-started my career. For any rider to have a horse like Sanctos, it’s a booster to your career.”

Brash is however certain that he would not have managed Sanctos as well if the two had paired up earlier on in their careers. “When you first go to a five-star show, to places like La Baule, Rome or Monaco, you don’t know what these rings are like. You might have seen them on TV, but you don’t have the experience of how they are to jump in,” he explains. “Then, when you come across a superstar like Sanctos, you really know what shows could suit that horse. You feel you can make a better plan, because you have had that experience of going around those shows,” he continues. “For example for me, jumping the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky really helped me go to the Olympics and perform well there. I think if I had not gone to Kentucky, who knows if I would have went so well in London. I was still quite young then.”

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson
Hello Sanctos and Scott together with owners Lady Kirkham and Lady Harris: "They are not only owners to me, they are like my family," the British rider says.

Sanctos shaped Scott’s life also on the personal level. Through him, Scott got to know Lord & Lady Harris and Lord & Lady Kirkham – who now, years later, feel like a family to Scott. They have owned horses for over 50 years and are keen supporters of the British show jumping.

“Their backing has made the difference in my career. Without them I feel I would have struggled to be in the top end of the sport,” Scott tells us. “I feel like I could never have had any better owners than them – they are not only owners to me, they are like my family. They help me with things throughout my life, not only horses,” he says. “What really is admirable to me is that they have won Calgary something like seven times on seven different horses, but they are still as hungry as ever to go and win it again. They are so motivating for me, and I am really grateful to have them in my life. I could not imagine my life without them in it.”

This one-of-a-kind partnership all started with an Olympic dream. “They kind of went out of the sport for a few years, but then with the Olympics being in London they wanted to get back in to it and they wanted to buy a horse with that in mind. I came back from Washington and Toronto with Intertoy and Bon Ami – I had just won the World Cup with Bon Ami out there – and they rang me and said they wanted to buy a horse. And the horse we bought was Sanctos.”

After the success of London 2012 the partnership with Harris and Kirkham grew stronger, and they now own all of Scott’s horses. “One of their life-long ambitions was to win an Olympic gold medal. To win it in their home country and in their home town, I think it was one of their biggest dreams coming true.” After Brash had helped them to achieve their dream, they now wanted to return the favour and asked Scott what it was he was aiming for. “I said I wanted to be number one in the sport – and they promised to help me."

Scott believes that the horses he has had in the past massively impact how he deals with the horses he has today.  “You learn something every day, and you learn a lot from different types of horses and different scenarios. I think experience over time helps you make better plans, and to win more,” he explains.

With Sanctos on the side-line, as well as a few of Scott’s other top horses, the last year was a quiet one for Brash. “I think I have been quite unlucky in injuries the last year, to be honest. There has been one thing after another, things outside the ring happened that have been unlucky,” Scott says. “I am now trying to build up my next string of horses. I think I have four really good 9-year-olds with Hello Mr. President, Hello Senator, Hello Shelby and Jerenmias, so hopefully the future is bright. They still have a lot to learn and I’ll have to do a few two-star shows to build them up, but towards the end of the year I hopefully have a good string again. If My Lady is back and Forever keeps going as well as he has been, then I’ve got some good horses in my stable.”

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson
Scott and Hello Mr. President, one of the rising stars in his stable.

Even with multiple Major-wins under the belt, Brash has no plans of slowing down. “I am quite greedy. I want to win everything. There are still many things in life I want to achieve.” Having won the likes of Aachen and Calgary, Scott admits being hooked on a high that follows winning those kind of Grand Prix classes. “Targeting yourself for something months or even years in advance – whatever it is – and building up for that one day, that one round that is going to make a difference. And if you achieve your goal of what you set out to do, there is no better feeling in the world,” Scott explains about his motivation. “Then, when I come off that feeling, it makes me even hungrier to get back and do it again – because of the feelings I had on that day I won. That is why I do it.”

But the winning wouldn’t be possible without the horses, and horses are the reason Scott does what he does. “I love educating the next horse, and trying to get the best out of each of them. I have some unbelievable horses in my stable but I think it is up to me as a rider as well as my grooms, vets and farrier at their jobs, it is down to all of us as a team to do our part to give these horses the best possible life, so they can do the best possible results. Our job is to turn them into superstars. I think they are all different and it is up to us to find the right keys.”

“I think for any rider, when you lose a horse, you are going to suffer and have a dip in your ranking and things like that. But what I think is good is that now I have felt the quality in horses like Ursula and Sanctos, so now I know what I am looking for in the next horse.”

With Sanctos being one of the most consistent horses there has ever been, of all time, Scott is very much aware of just how lucky he has been. “I am very, very realistic. Throughout history, there has never been a horse as successful as Sanctos. I will keep searching for the next super star, but I know horses like that don’t come around too often in your life time. And at the end of the day, that is what we are all in this sport for: Because of the horse.”


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