Daniel Meech’s love of his quirky mare Fine is clear for all to see, and he is as proud as punch of her efforts at WEG.
“It was great to pull up in the rankings,” he said. “Fine was just amazing.” She caught the eye of many and drew high praise from New Zealand’s jumping chef’d’equipe Helena Stormanns for her constant improvement. Daniel and Fine finished in 45thplace after taking a rail and picking up two time faults in the second round.
Daniel was so proud of the 10-year-old Swedish warmblood. “The one thing I always say about this horse is that she never lets me down. We can have a bad day but on an occasion like this you need a horse that walks in and says, ‘we own this today’. She rose to the occasion. She didn’t let the occasion get to her. That is why I chose her for this purpose, for this type of day.”
She’s a bit of a different beast at local shows where she is completely laid back.
Sadly the horse is now on the market. “I don’t know how long I will have her but it has been a great experience, and to pull off a round like that. We bought her as an investment . . . and for sure in the end we have to sell her. She is 10 years old and sometimes we have to make a little bit of money – and not always spend it. I will be really sad when we sell her.”
But he looks back on what they have achieved with pride. “When I got her from Sweden she was a real talent but really raw. She had been well handled and was in a good space to do the next step. To come as a pretty green 10-year-old and just go out and do a round like that today. It was really big and technical out there – there is no let up. I am really, really happy.”
He put a lot of the success down to input from Helena. “She has been a big difference for me (over) the last few weeks,” he said. “We trained with her before we came here. She really fits my system . . . she has trained with the top Germans.”
When Daniel first headed to Europe it was to the iconic Paul Schockemohle’s yard he headed to.
“Helena knows how to jump clear in championships . . . she knows how to train for them and I think that is what we have been really lacking over the years. For me it was perfect – it fit right in. It is my system and her ideas are the same as mine. I think it made a big difference for me and Fine, that is for sure.”
That final training camp had been tough. “It is no holds barred for her. She built a course for us and we had to go cold in and jump in. She said, ‘if you can’t jump this, don’t bother going’ (to WEG),” he said. “This is how it is and when the Germans and top guys train, there is no going in half hearted. You go in full on.”
He felt it was hugely beneficial having Helena walking the courses with him. “She does the Global Tour every week and trains a lot of top riders and knows how to ride the courses. Where maybe I would make one more (stride), she makes you do one less because you have to.”
That training stood him in good stead for the second round of competition. “Today it is super bold. You have to ride hard for the back rails but you have to protect the front rails. There is everything in there today. It is like yesterday but with more scope and courage and control and everything. You are going forward, you are going back, you have the double gates there straight up, the oxer just out of the turn is difficult, and the triple combination is ultra, when you are coming over the triple bar you have the vertical in your face.”
He’s hopeful Helena will remain as part of the New Zealand team for years to come to ensure they’re all as well prepared to face some of the toughest courses in the world.
By Diana Dobson, NZ team media liaison
Photo by Libby Law Photography