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Still going strong: Miebello

Tuesday, 15 February 2022
Still going strong

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ At the age of 18, the Swedish-bred gelding Miebello (Flyinge Quite Easy x Cardento) still delivers top results with his Irish rider Mark McAuley. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping



At the age of 18, the Swedish-bred gelding Miebello (Flyinge Quite Easy x Cardento) still delivers top results with his Irish rider Mark McAuley. Last year, the two were on the podium in Paris, Valence and Verona, while they have kicked off 2022 with two wins at the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour in Oliva Nova. What does it take to keep an 18-year-old fit to compete at the top of the sport, and what program did Miebello have throughout his career? WoSJ had a talk with McAuley, as well as with Johan Lundh – who bred Miebello and brought him up to 5* level – about what they believe has been the key to keep the gelding going in great shape.

Johan Lundh had Miebello until the gelding was 12, and at the time, the pair had competed in several Nations Cups and World Cups as well as being the Swedish reserve combination for the European Championships in 2015. “I bred him myself and know the mother line very well, as I also competed his grandmother Pikobella at Grand Prix and Nations Cup level,” Lundh explains. “His mother Bellamie seemed very promising, but unfortunately she passed away at the age of five. I was riding in the woods when she got scared of a car, jumped into a ditch and cut herself so badly on a stone that we had to put her down. Unfortunately, with Miebello’s mother, our breeding program with that dam line also died.” 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Johan Lundh with Miebello, that he bred himself and brought all the way up to five-star level. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Both his mother and grandmother were very light horses, as is Miebello; when I had him, his weight was between 490-520 kilo, and I think that is one reason why he stays so fit," Lundh says. "Another factor is that he was born with his weight naturally on his hind legs and has never put very much weight on his front end."

He was born with great proportions and with muscles in the right places.

"Miebello was also very athletic already from the beginning,” Lundh tells. 

To choose Flyinge Quite Easy as the father for Bellamie’s future foal was in 2003 made mostly out of practical reasons. “At that time Quite Easy was an up-and-coming star in Sweden, and since this would be the first foal for Bellamie I wanted a stallion that was close by and had a good fertility. My choice then fell on Quite Easy and he turned out to work very well with Cardento on the other side of the family tree.”

Miebello grew up as most young horses do in Sweden, out day and night most parts of the year, and during winter out during day and inside overnight. “We might have a bit different view on how to let horses grow up than in some other countries, but here in Sweden everything is about the horses being outside in big fields as much as possible. That also goes for older horses,” Lundh tells. 

Need for change

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ "He was always a good horse, but he didn’t really show his capability before he started to jump bigger classes, and no one had any kind of interest in him before he was seven," Johan Lundh tells about Miebello. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Lundh explains that as a young horse Miebello was a bit difficult and had a lot of nerves. “He could be really stubborn, didn’t want to listen to the leg and he was lacking a positive will to work,” Lundh says laughing. “It actually took years for us to find a positive connection, so we started very slow with him. He didn’t do much at all as a 4-year-old and didn’t start to compete before he was 5. When you breed the horses yourself, you don’t have the pressure for the horses to show what they can do at an early stage. It takes the time it takes."

We never had the plan to sell Miebello, the plan was to produce him to become a good horse for me – which he did.

Miebello then developed quickly and competed at the Swedish Championships for young horses as a 5, 6 and 7-year-old as well as the FEI Jumping World Breeding Championship for Young Horses for 7-year-olds where he reached the final. But despite Miebello performing well as a young horse, Lundh was still struggling with him. “He used to rush towards the fences and the last two strides were really difficult to control,” Lundh recalls. “It turned out that I needed to get more stability in my riding than I was used to. I was an active rider and was not always sitting quiet enough in the saddle, but that kind of riding didn’t suit Miebello so I had to change. I had to be calmer, more still and get deeper into the saddle. When I managed, everything got easy and the success followed.”

“I did pull him off the list from some classes over the years though, just because he didn’t feel a 100%. Not that he was ever unhealthy, but if it wasn’t his day, I didn’t compete,” Lundh explains. 

If I knew I wouldn’t be able to be in the top of the class, I didn’t show him. 

"And I think that also helped keeping him so sound. A horse should not be forced or pushed if they don’t feel 100%, then it is easy to break their will to perform. It is not just the body that needs to stay fit, it is also the mind that needs to cope with everything and be able to reload so the horse think it is fun to compete.”

When the phone calls started coming in

“To begin with, no one believed in Miebello,” Lundh says. “He was always a good horse, but he didn’t really show his capability before he started to jump bigger classes, and no one had any kind of interest in him before he was seven – then the interest in him grew. After every class we did, someone called and asked if he was for sale – he was a very attractive horse, a bit smaller, with an airy canter that stood out among the others. To begin with, many thought he would only be a great young rider horse, but that also changed eventually. The plan was never to sell since I wanted to keep him for myself to compete, but in the end, I had to accept that it was unattainable with only one horse at top level. I’m very happy that I sold him to the Charlotte and Mark. He has a great life where he is now which makes me happy and that lets me sleep well at night. Charlotte and Mark also let him continue to compete – which he loves more than anything – but without overdoing it.” 

Grumpy it is

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ "He was grumpy and not a horse you wanted to go cuddle with in the box," Johan Lundh tells about Miebello. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Miebello was a horse with a lot of nerves and it took a while to get him on my side. He was grumpy and not a horse you wanted to go cuddle with in the box. He really had his own personality. However, Miebello is a unique horse and not one you breed every day, both when it comes to his airy canter and his personality,” Lundh closes off. 

Lundh is not the only one who thinks Miebello is grumpy, as this is the first word McAuley uses when asked to describe the gelding. “He is quite grumpy and when you walk pass his box, he always looks angry,” McAuley smiles. “You are always a bit aware of him, even though he looks scarier than he is. Deep down he is a very sweet horse, but he likes his peace and quiet and to have his space to himself.”

Miebello is extremely lazy to ride at home and he definitely doesn’t like dressage work in the arena.

“In that way it is a bit difficult to keep him fit, because when you work him, he is not really working, he is behind you… So, we do a maximum of three days a week in the arena and for the rest we do a lot of hill work and just try to keep him happy," McAuley tells. "If you give him a jump at home, you would think it would be impossible to jump a 1.40m class. Luckily, he is such a well build horse and he doesn’t need that much jump training as everything comes very natural for him; he is supple, has a good balance and is elastic.”

A true show horse

“At shows, Miebello is a different horse, he is much happier, much keener,” McAuley tells. “In the warm-up, he can still be a bit grumpy and lazy, but when he gets into the ring, he is a different horse. He takes hold of the bridle and is much more enjoyable to ride actually – he really wakes up and I think he loves to compete.”

“Miebello is not the most scopey horse in the world from nature’s side, so I try to always alternate between big and small classes to keep him motivated,” McAuley explains. “He needs to want to do it and want to try hard in the ring for the big classes, so it is important to alternate the height to make it as easy as possible for him – to let him have fun when it is not important. I feel that doing this helps a lot for when it is important, since he then has motivation to really fight for me.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Charlotte McAuley with Miebello in Rome in 2016. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Miebello’s well-built body is something also McAuley believes has played a big part in keeping the gelding healthy. “He is easy on himself, he jumps in a correct way and his proportions are perfect."

If I would paint a horse for the modern sport, I would paint him.

"He is just the perfect model of a horse and that is a big reason why he is still so fit and healthy,” McAuley tells. “Another factor is our team that takes care of him. We have such a great team of grooms, riders, vets as well as our blacksmith. I think they also play a big part in Miebello doing so well.”

Horse of a lifetime

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ "For me as a rider, Miebello has been everything – he absolutely made my career, no doubt about it," Mark McAuley says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Miebello was originally bought for McAuley’s wife Charlotte. “Miebello came during the time when I wasn’t jumping as much and helped Charlotte,” McAuley tells. “Back then, Charlotte was competing in the second league of the Nations Cup and was a couple of times on the same team as Johan. I really liked Miebello, I loved the way he jumped, the model and the type of horse. Then Charlotte’s grandmother, the late Eva Lundin, decided that she wanted to buy another good horse for Charlotte and Miebello was the first horse we thought about. We tried him in Sweden and bought him straight away.”

“The first year, Charlotte rode Miebello, but then she got pregnant with our first son so I started riding him and it clicked straight away. Our third show was a 4* in Bourg-en-Bresse and we came second in the Grand Prix. The week after he was fourth in the CSIO5* Grand Prix in Rome. I never had results like that before, so for me it was just unbelievable. For me as a rider, Miebello has been everything – he absolutely made my career, no doubt about it."

He made me believe in myself and without him I would not have done half of what I have done so far.

“Charlotte’s grandmother who owned Miebello sadly passed away on Christmas Day. I’m extremely grateful to her for giving me the chance to ride a horse like Miebello,” McAuley says. 

In winning form

With Miebello being 18 years old, McAuley takes it day by day. “Miebello had a fantastic 2021, he didn’t do many shows, but he performed well at all of them. At the end of the year, I jumped him in Geneva and we didn’t have the show I hoped for so I thought straight away that this might be it – maybe it is time to retire him. After, our vet checked him and told me that Miebello had never been as sound and that if he was happy there would be no reason whatsoever to retire him. So, we took Miebello to Oliva, where he can go to the beach every morning, which keeps him fresh and happy. I competed him in smaller classes in Oliva to make it easy for him, let him have fun and stay fit at the same time,” McAuley says after winning two Silver Tour Grand Prix classes in a row with Miebello. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ "Miebello will tell me when he doesn’t want to do it anymore," Mark McAuley says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“We are leaving for Florida for two months now and Miebello is not coming with. That is maybe a pity, because he feels so good at the moment. However, my rider will keep him happy and fit at home and when I get back we will do some shows and see how he feels. Miebello will tell me when he doesn’t want to do it anymore. The plan is definitely not to drop him down a level and use every last bit to try to win smaller classes – so when I feel that he is not able to jump at a descent level I will stop,” McAuley says. 

To be honest, I don’t think he is a horse that is going to be very happy when he stops showing. 

"He has been showing all his life and it is what he loves doing,” McAuley says. “He loves going on the truck to go to shows and I think that as long as he is fit and healthy that is what he would want to do. That is what makes him happy! However, when the day comes to retire him, he will have a nice life in the field at home.” 


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