New Zealand’s dressage fraternity have been left reeling after the sudden passing of FEI World Cup Final representative Dejavu MH this week.
The striking 12-year-old black gelding, who was bred by Matthews Hanoverians, created history when he and Kumeu-based Williamson earned the right to represent New Zealand at the FEI World Cup Final in Omaha last year when they won the 2017 Pacific League World Cup Final.
But his life has been plagued by an array of health issues that Williamson says many would not have coped with – let alone travel across the globe and compete at top level. In the end, he succumbed to colic.
“His heart and generosity were huge,” she said. “There is nothing like developing a partnership with a horse from a foal through to travelling the world at the top of his game. For me as a rider, having DJ (Dejavu MH) as my first horse through to CDI Grand Prix level was a privilege and he taught me so much. DJ totally spoilt it for his yard mates with his amazing talent for piaffe – passage, my expectations are now quite high! I hope one day I can get that amazing feeling again with another horse.”
Williamson said she was “utterly heartbroken” to lose DJ. “He was such a majestic horse with a huge amount of presence and has been a massive part of our lives. Our experiences are of extreme highs and lows – when at his best it was like owning the latest model black Ferrari, you felt in awe just being in his presence. Riding him you were always on the edge, mostly in control but just with that bit of the unexpected.”
And he has always had that edge to him. “As a youngster he was fairly terrifying to ride . . . very unpredictable and prone to explosive power. I was a regular sight riding DJ with Jonnie (husband) on the ground on the end of the rope or lunge line.”
Williamson said she had been blown away by the many messages of support and kind thoughts following his passing. “We thought he was a very special horse and it is obvious lots of other people felt the same way.”
She was hugely grateful to those who had looked after DJ and particularly long time groom Hannah Comrie, along with Steph Cathy and Tylor who took on the challenge of his cares for the past 10 months with care and compassion, as well as Lindsey, who had given him his much-loved physio sessions.
“He demanded and required a lot of attention, so he has consequently left a huge hole in our lives.”
Those thoughts are reiterated by many, and particularly Comrie. “There is no other horse who would have such a positive outlook on life than DJ,” she said. “He was a generous and very genuine creature who always put his best hoof forward. The memories that now pop up on Facebook remind me of how exciting and crazy our time was together.”
Comrie and DJ travelled 45,000 kilometres together as Williamson chased her top-fight dream. “DJ wouldn’t want any of us to be upset – he would want us to celebrate what we achieved. He is free now – gone but he will always be the brightest star in the sky.”
Dressage New Zealand sport manager Wendy Hamerton paid tribute to the history-maker.
“Wendi and DJ attracted huge spectator and fan interest, along with international accolades wherever they appeared,” said Hamerton. “His spectacular movement combined with Wendi’s striking style presented an inspiration for others to lift their own performances and we saw many wonderful challenges for the top place on the podium.”
The horse would always be missed, but his legacy as New Zealand’s first FEI World Cup representative, along with his other excellent international performances would forever inspire New Zealand-based combinations to take on the world.
ESNZ high performance director Sarah Dalziell-Clout also extended condolences to Williamson and her team. “We have lost not only an international quality horse, but also an exciting combination who helped raise the bar of dressage in New Zealand,” she said.
DJ, who was by De Niro, out of Adelheid (by Anamour), had his first CDI3* start at Feilding in 2016. In all his 3* and 4* starts he was rarely out of the top 7.
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos by Libby Law/ESNZ