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That Special Bond – with Harrie Smolders: “Emerald had, and still has, the complete package”

Thursday, 07 January 2021
That Special Bond

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. "We knew from the beginning – from the first time I rode him – that he would change the careers of Axel Verlooy and myself,” Smolders says about Emerald. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping


 

In World of Showjumping’s series ‘That Special Bond’ we talk with some of the top names in the sport, to discuss the horses that have shaped their careers, fulfilled their dreams – and sometimes even broken hearts.

This time we speak with Dutch rider Harrie Smolders to learn about the very special horses he so far has had the pleasure to share his career with.   

The Special One

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. "It was very hard when Emerald was retired though. You can’t replace a horse like that and it is impossible to find another horse like him – they have to come to you,” Smolders tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“That would probably be Emerald. We knew from the beginning – from the first time I rode him – that he would change the careers of Axel Verlooy and myself,” Smolders says about the chestnut stallion. “When you try a new horse, you often have some question marks, but with Emerald we were both 100% convinced from the first time I jumped him and he was only six at the time. We have always been driving around looking at and trying new horses every week – however, Emerald just came to us. It was like it was meant to be. The owner sent Emerald to us to try for a week, but we only needed a day. We got the perfect feeling straight away – he was so careful, athletic, had a great brain, was good looking and had a fantastic expression. Emerald had, and still has, the complete package." 

Emerald was easy going and a little bit lazy at home. Work didn’t really interest him. He did not care for the morning schooling classes at the shows either. 

"But as soon as you had the more important classes and people watching he wanted to show off. He always wanted to show off and still does – at home in the stable he can be a bit grumpy, but as soon as you take him out and put a camera in front of him, he turns into a rock star. 

He always lived up to our expectations and his prime time was when he was eleven. During the last two years of his sport career, his breeding duties were taking over more and more and when he was retired he was already on the top of the Dutch breeding rankings. 

It was very hard when Emerald was retired though. You can’t replace a horse like that and it is impossible to find another horse like him – they have to come to you.” 

The Money Maker

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. "Don was probably the most consistent 1.60m horse in the world during his time," Smolders says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Money wise, I think Don won the most. Don only jumped 12 shows a year, but he did competitions with more prize money. He won one-two classes a year and was very often among the top five. Don was probably the most consistent 1.60m horse in the world during his time. 

Sport wise, he has been the best horse in my career – he won major competitions, was second at the European Championships in Gothenburg, jumped double clear in all the Nations Cups during 2017, jumped double clear in the Global Champions League classes to go in and jump double clear in the Global Champions Tour classes as well. He also jumped double clear in the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona to give Netherlands the win. Don did so many rounds under pressure and then he was at his best. 

Don actually never minded working. He felt that he needed to be really fit to be at his best and he was very willing to do that work for his rider." 

Don was the same every day, so you knew that how you rode him today would be how he would be tomorrow.

"He was super focused and never got distracted. I could tell on Saturday how he would be on Sunday.

When you were on the ground, Don could be a bit of a stallion. At vet-checks everyone knew him and they often asked us to come before everyone else to the trot-up. But he never had any tendencies like that when being ridden. 

Don had such a good rideability and you could place him on the millimetre where you wanted him ahead of a fence and get him in the exact right pace. This together with his scope and carefulness is very rare. Before I went in, I could plan the whole course, with the exact strides between the fences and in the turns and if I didn’t screw up he would jump clear. Of course, that put pressure on me as a rider, but it was a nice pressure to have. I could count so much on Don, so if I was doing the right things, I knew we would have a top result.  

I also have to mention Regina and Zinius. They were the most-winning horses of my career, maybe not in money but in the number of classes they won. When I had them with me to a show I for sure came home with at least one ribbon. It was horses that I was always happy to put on the lorry.”

The One That Got Away

Photo © Hippo Foto - Jon Stroud. "It was a bit sad when he left my stable – he was a horse for the major classes,” Harrie Smolders says about Jackson Hole. Photo © Hippo Foto - Jon Stroud.

“The first one that comes to my mind is Jackson Hole. I only had him for four months during 2013, but he made a big impression. He was a very light horse to ride, very scopey, very cool minded and a horse that was very manageable. My feeling was that he could have been a championship horse for me. When I had him, he was only nine, but I felt so much capacity and we took the second place at the Global Tour in Vienna during our short time together. At that time, we had no other horses that could back up for the top sport, so he got sold. It was a bit sad when he left my stable – he was a horse for the major classes.” 

 

No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping.com



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