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That Special Bond – with Lauren Hough

Tuesday, 26 June 2018
That Special Bond

Photo (c) Hippo Foto - Dirk Caremans The special one: Lauren Hough with Clasiko at the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000. "Clasiko was a powerhouse," Hough says. Photo (c) Hippo Foto - Dirk Caremans.

By Esther Hahn


Lauren Hough has been blessed with the horses she has ridden, both past and present—and Hough is the first to acknowledge this. The wealth of her horse talent has helped shape her career from a young age, with Clasiko, her Olympic mount, and Windy City, her Pan American Games mount, supporting her string in her early 20s.

Hough’s ability to find and produce those once-in-a-lifetime mounts has continued to present day. Ohlala, currently recovering from a minor injury, heads a strong stable for Hough. To learn more about the horses behind the current world no. 42, we’ve asked the U.S. rider to walk us through her three types of horses….  the special one, the money maker, and the one that got away.

The Special One

“I find it difficult to single one out because I find them all to be special. But from a career standpoint, it would probably be Clasiko, the horse I rode in the Sydney Olympics. At the time, he was only 9 years old and I was 23. Neither one of us really knew what we were doing [laughs].

“He was really scopey and very brave. Our partnership got my career going at a young age. The Olympic Games in Sydney was the first time I had ever ridden on a Nations Cup. It took me some time after that to become competitive on him, however, towards the end of his career he won quite a few grands prix, and he did have a lot of success at Spruce Meadows.

“I got Clasiko as a 7-year-old from Germany with Henk Nooren, along with Windy City. It’s unusual to find two amazing horses on the same trip! Windy City and Clasiko were a year apart in age and traveled the world together. They were very different types of horses: Windy City being a small super quick horse and a real fighter, whereas Clasiko was a powerhouse. I look back now and realize how lucky I was to have had them at the same time, at the very beginning of my career.

“After I rode Clasiko at the Olympics, I remember asking Rodrigo Pessoa in Spruce Meadows, ‘Can you please help me, he’s really difficult on the flat and I have a hard time going fast with him.’ I used to ride him in a plain gag, and Rodrigo said, ‘How have you done as much as you’ve done in just a gag?’ He ended up giving me this bit that I still have—a Pessoa Pelham. That was the bit I rode Clasiko in for the rest of his career. It was a game changer in that I could steer and I learned how to be a competitive winner on him.

“Clasiko sadly passed away last year, and although they are all special to me, he definitely helped opened a lot of doors for me at a young age.”

The Money Maker

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Lauren Hough with Ohlala: “I think from her 8- to 10-year-old years, she had at least 20 ranking class wins;" says the American rider. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

“If you were to put numbers down, it would certainly be Ohlala. She’s won since the very beginning—combined with the fact that as this sport has developed, the prize money has increased. Quick Study was also an unbelievable success. If he was in a jump-off, and I didn’t screw up, we were pretty much guaranteed to be one of the fastest. My most memorable 5* grand prix wins were with him—one being in Hamburg and the other in Dublin.

“He had a really long career with me. I also found him through Henk in Belgium as a 7-year-old. He was completely wild, and a lot of people said that they had tried him beforehand, but were unsure of his rideability. He was the type you had to meet in the middle and couldn’t really tell him what to do—you had to ask nicely. He was challenging in the beginning and super difficult on the flat.  I knew I was sitting on something really special and unique from the very start. He was his own character and had his own way of going. He had a massive right drift his whole career, and I think I’ve now taught most of my hoses to jump right because of him [laughs].

“I also went through many different bit changes with him. Markus Beerbaum was influential in giving me a hackamore bit which Quick Study used for most of his career. Consistency wise, I think he and Ohlala are quite close. If he were still competing today, I think he would also be the money maker of the family.

“That said, I have to mention Ohlala. I got her at the end of her 7-year-old year, once again through Henk. From a 7-year-old through to being a 10-year-old, I mainly used her as a good 1.45m-1.50m horse jumping with some 2* grands prix, sometimes 3* grands prix. Then, in 2014, I needed a horse to ride in the $1 Million class in Ocala, and she was sort of the only one left so I thought, okay, I’ll give it a go.

“I remember thinking, there’s no way that she could jump this. However, we ended up having one down and being placed. From that moment forward, she was then third in the American Invitational and later that year, she was fifth in Aachen. I won an individual medal with her at the Pan American Games, which is one of the highlights of our partnership. Last year, she won the $1 Million in Ocala.

“I think from her 8- to 10-year-old years, she had at least 20 ranking class wins. Now I protect her a little bit more, and I don’t use her in so many classes. Last year, she was double clear in Dublin in the grand prix and double clear in Barcelona in the Nations Cup final. I think she’s been double clear four times in Nations Cups.

“She’s unbelievably smart, she’s a fighter, and she has no idea how little she is. Lala is very confident and sure of herself and has an amazing understanding of her job.”

The One That Got Away

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Codarco, with Chloe Reid. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

“I think it was in 2014, when I was leaving the show in Lyon, that Billy Twomey asked me if I could bring a horse home for him because he was traveling onwards. That horse ended up being Codarco.

“Billy said, ‘You should have a sit on this horse. I think it’s a really good Young Rider horse.’ At the time, I didn’t really have anyone looking for that type of horse. Codarco stayed at my farm in England for two days and I never bothered to have a sit on him [laughs].

“I’m very happy that Chloe [Reid] ended up with him. For quite some time, though, I was angry with myself for not sitting on that horse.”


Text © World of Showjumping // Pictures © World of Showjumping and Dirk Caremans

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