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Still going strong – Willem Greve’s Carambole: "Everything he does now feels like a gift"

Tuesday, 18 May 2021
Still going strong

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping “Carambole is very clever, and it’s he who is the boss,” Willem Greve tells about the 17-year-old stallion. All photos © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

In our series ‘Still going strong’, we get to know more about the oldest four-legged superstars that are still active at the top of the sport as 17- and 18-year-olds. What does it take to keep these seniors fit to compete, and what program have they had throughout their careers? In this next part of the series, WoSJ speaks with Dutch rider Willem Greve about his long-time partner Carambole (San Patrignano Cassini x Concerto II – breeder Jens Ritters) that is still active in the sport at the age of 17. 

“I have had Carambole for thirteen years now – since he was four – so I know him inside out and he knows me just as well,” Willem says with a smile. 

“Back then, it was Tjeerd Rijkens in Germany who owned Carambole. My father and Gerardus Post then bought a share in him, so all three owned him together. I have produced him since he was four. Carambole was already an approved stallion and he was always one of the best in his age group during his youngster years. As an 8-year-old he seemed very promising, so the Korbeld-family – the owners of Ukato – bought him for me to keep for the sport, while they had the breeding rights. It has been a great partnership and the Korbelds are just fantastic people.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping "Coming to Den Bosch – even without the crowd – he just knows it is more important and gives that bit extra,” Willem Greve says about Carambole.

“Carambole is very clever, and it’s he who is the boss,” Willem says. “He is a lot of stallion, not necessarily in the way he acts or sounds, but he is sharp as a razor blade. He is a very intelligent horse, and he will let us know if anything bothers him – and if he is in a good shape or not. If anything bothers him, he gets angry and grumpy. Carambole is like an open book, so we just need to read to him. He is a very special horse; way more sensitive and clever than you might think.”

Willem believes that the reason Carambole is still going strong at the highest level of the sport at the age of 17, is because the stallion taught his rider to listen very carefully to him. “We know each other so well, so it’s just for me to make sure he is managed well and given what he needs,” Willem tells.

Carambole gets a lot of variety in his work, we go out hacking, he goes in the field every day and we know how to keep him fresh.

"And the good thing with Carambole is that he doesn’t jump more than needed. He has a very effortless way of jumping and he doesn’t over-jump or do hand stands.”

However, over the years, Carambole has had his share of bad luck and injuries. “Carambole has been out two times, but he always came back better than before. You often see horses sustaining injuries and then you never see them back again. Carambole has so much character though, he is such an unbelievable horse that loves the sport, so he always came back better than ever,” Willem tells.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping "He is a very intelligent horse, and he will let us know if anything bothers him – and if he is in a good shape or not. If anything bothers him, he gets angry and grumpy," Willem Greve says.

In 2016, when Carambole and Willem had a busy schedule to put themselves on the team for the Olympic Games in Rio, the stallion got injured while competing in Aachen. “Of course the pressure was on us to prove ourselves, and there were a lot of competitions back then."

I learned my lesson then; that my gut feeling is always right. I think, when you go against your gut feeling, because you for some reason have to perform – that is when you get the injuries.

“Now there is no pressure whatsoever, and Carambole doesn’t have to prove a thing. He will tell me if he is in shape or not,” Willem says. “Last year, Carambole jumped the CSI5* in Valkenswaard as Zypria S N.O.P. had a little break. Shortly before Valkenswaard, he did a 2* show in Wierden, where he felt really good and he won the Grand Prix. However, when we got to Valkenswaard, he hadn’t jumped a big class in over a year and the Grand Prix was really big. I jumped number one and number two and just thought ‘Holy shit!’ If you look at the videos, he jumped out of his skin – he just starts to shine when it is important. The year before, when he jumped double clear in Aachen, it was like he wanted to show the whole world that he is as good as he is – especially after getting injured at the same show three years earlier. And it was a dream come true for me – to be double clear in Aachen.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping "(...) when he jumped double clear in Aachen, it was like he wanted to show the whole world that he is as good as he is – especially after getting injured at the same show three years earlier. And it was a dream come true for me – to be double clear in Aachen,” Willem Greve tells.

Willem had planned to retire Carambole last year, but the Covid-19 pandemic got in his way. “He jumped super in Valkenswaard and felt so good I was thinking of retiring him at a big show or a stallion approval shortly after. Everything got cancelled though… When I left for Sunshine Tour at the beginning of this year, Carambole felt great so I took him with me and he jumped super. Then he ended up being a star at The Dutch Masters; jumping clear in the VDL Groep Prize and finishing fifth in the Rolex Grand Prix with a double clear. I competed him in Westergellersen the week before just to jump him a bit. At home he is really laid back and in Westergellersen he jumped around nice, but nothing extra. Then coming to Den Bosch – even without the crowd – he just knows it is more important and gives that bit extra.”

Everything Carambole does now feels like a gift. He will tell me when he wants to quit, and we take one show at the time without any kind of pressure. If he feels right, I will take him to a show and if he doesn’t feel right I don’t take him. I think that is really important and what makes the difference with him. Nothing has to be done! It is no pressure from me on him, from him on me or from the owner.

“Carambole will not be a 2* or 3* horse though – with all respect for these shows – he will be my number one next to Zypria S N.O.P. and do the big sport. When the time comes he will get a good retirement and make babies,” Willem says. 

“Carambole is just a super horse and I have realized that even more when he has not been able to compete. No offence to my other horses, but he is just outstanding!” Willem closes off. 

 

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