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That Special Bond – with Alex Tyler-Morris: “There was no manual for Walnut!”

Friday, 23 April 2021
That Special Bond

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Harrie Smolders with Exquis Walnut de Muze. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

We continue our popular series ‘That Special Bond’, and this time we speak with Alex Tyler-Morris who for many years worked for Axel Verlooy – grooming for Harrie Smolders. Having taken care of so many super stars, Alex has difficulties to choose which horse has been the most special one for him and tells us about two mares that took a while to understand. 

 

The Special One

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. "To witness his progress from a 6-year-old to be jumping at the Olympics is not something you don't get to see that often," Alex Tyler-Morris tells about Emerald. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“That is a really difficult question, since they are all special in their own way,” Tyler-Morris begins when asked which horse has been the most special for him. “However, if I really have to choose, I have three. The first one is Emerald. I looked after him during his entire career with Harrie – from he was a 6-year-old until he was retired. It was only three or four shows I didn’t do with him during all those years and it was because I was flying somewhere else with other horses at that time. In all fairness, our home groom Tamiles was a lot closer to Emerald than I ever was. Emerald just loved her and still does. He was always different when Tamiles walked into the stable. 

Emerald and I spent most of our time together at different show grounds – often after long travels – and there he wanted to have some quiet space. We always liked each other though, but nothing like Tamiles and him. Nevertheless; to witness his progress from a 6-year-old to be jumping at the Olympics is not something you don't get to see that often. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. "Don was perfect to ride, it was just leading him around that was a different story," Alex Tyler-Morris tells about the stallion Don VHP Z. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

The second special horse for me is Don. We achieved so much with Don and life was always interesting with him – it was never a dull moment. He had a huge character in the box and another huge character outside the box. 

In the box – whenever you wanted to enter – he needed to allow you to walk in. He was not happy with anyone walking in quickly. And you needed to be in charge of Don, if not he would take advantage really quickly. If you were in charge and gave him respect, he would respect you back and all would be fine. He always tested the new ones though. 

Outside the box, Don was a stallion and you needed to watch out, but he was never aggressive. As for riding he was perfect, he was the only horse I would ride without stirrups – I felt that safe riding him. It was just leading him around that was a different story. 

The third special horse for me is Regina. She did things that she normally shouldn’t have been able to do. Regina is a half trotter, but she had such a big heart and she jumped out of her own will.”

Missing the Most

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. "I do miss that time grooming for Harrie, but things change and you need new challenges," Alex Tyler-Morris says – here with Zinius. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“I miss all of them! I was lucky enough to look after some very special horses and not just the three I mentioned. I had Powerfee, Walnut, Jackson Hole, Zinius and Oliver Q and I miss them all. 

I do miss that time grooming for Harrie, but things change and you need new challenges. It was a very special time with these horses though and I was lucky enough to be there when it all happened.”

Hardest to Get to Know

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping "Regina did things that she normally shouldn’t be able to do," Alex tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Regina was probably the most difficult one to get to know. The first day I worked at Axel’s she chased me out of the box, then she spun around so fast that I thought she would kick me. Regina was one of those horses that was ears back and tail waiving until you got to know her, and then she was the sweetest mare. Everyone’s first impression of her was to back off and every time you walked in the box, she would look at you and lift her hind leg – but she never did anything. 

To hand-walk her was another thing. I often had a long rope of four meters and walked way behind her. Then she was great, she stopped when I stopped, turned left and right very easily and everyone was happy. When I walked next to her, like with other horses, she got so strong and we just got mad at each other. 

Walnut was also really difficult to get to know. One of the first shows I did with Harrie was in Lummen where Walnut won the Grand Prix. Harrie asked if I could take her back to the stable, since he had to go to the press conference. He then told me to be careful and soon I understood why – Walnut took off and cantered with me dragged beside her back to the stable, she was like a tank. I didn’t have a lot to say, she went where she wanted to go. 

The difficult thing with Walnut was that she was sensitive like a mare but had a body like a stallion. She could walk all over the place and I had to stop her in a gentle way even though she wasn’t gentle at all with me. So, she was sensitive but strong minded and I had to figure that out. It took a good year to really get to know her and even when I thought I knew her, things could change and she continued to surprise me. Some days she was totally fine when I took her out of the box and other days she was bucking. The reason for her bucking could change every time – it could be a small thing like the blanket touching the top of her tail or other minor details that no other horse would care about. There was no manual for Walnut!”

 

 

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