There are many incredible horses who have left their mark on the equestrian scene – and then there are the super versitile horses who have more than one career, with great success. Off the track Thoroughbreds have proven time and again how they can switch from gallop training, and often successfully racing, from a young age, to becoming super competitive sport horses across almost any discipline and often having long and rewarding second lives.
As part of a new series, looking into the lives of some of these high achieving athletes – called Championing TiES – ESNZ members share their stories of their amazing TBs who have had a huge part in their competitive careers to date.
This month Sarah Dalziell-Clout shares a glimpse into the life of her beloved Benrose Super Star.
Benrose Super Star (AKA Basil) was bred by Josie Harley and born in 2000, out of Our Grey Lady by Ebony Grosve (Grosvenor). Despite a relatively late and start to his sport horse career, Basil had success across multiple disciplines – he was a competitive and successful eventer and show-jumper. Eventing up to 4* (then 3*) level, he also show-jumped up to 1* Grand Prix and collected multiple wide ribbons in Round the Ring and Working Hunters.
Basil raced as Ashbury Grosve, fairly unsuccessfully, from age two to six years old. Tania Scott purchased him from the track and he commenced his sport horse career at age seven years old, which was when I first rode him.
On the return from my OE in 2010, Tania Scott, Lara Baker, my parents and I formed the Benrose Super Star Syndicate with the aim of producing an upper-level eventer. This was not a straight-forward journey – with a huge amount of learning and management required along the way. From the start, Basil was extremely sharp and highly-strung which meant he took time and patience to develop, particularly in the dressage phase. He was not an easy horse to have around – he was a wind-sucking addict, difficult to keep weight on, he was extremely clingy with other horses. He also wasn’t a great traveller and had an annoying habit of pulling-back at any opportunity. I recall chasing my loose horse amongst the showing section of the Fielding Show, him having pulled back for a third time – quite embarrassing!
However, his athleticism and agility meant that he was extremely competitive and fun to ride – he was nimble and adjustable in a jump-off, he would rather jump the height of the stands than take a rail, and he found the time on XC easy to get – I often wondered how Basil was not successful on the track as he could gallop and jump with such natural, effortless ease.
And despite all his quirks, Basil was “with me” – once I earnt his trust and had taken the time to explain the problem or question, he was are earnest and genuine. I think that’s the thing with thoroughbreds, while they often display their worries outwardly, once you’ve earned their trust and gained their confidence, they will generally go as far as they possibly can for you.
My little thoroughbred, who jumped in an unorthodox but exuberant style enabled me to attain many goals – he took me around the country eventing up to (then) 3* level with wins up to and including 3* , he was runner-up in the National CCI 3* Championship, he won and placed in both show-jumping and eventing Amateur and ProAm series and he placed up to 1.40m level Show-Jumping and took me around large Ring 1 show-jumping tracks such as the Lady Rider of the Year.
Unfortunately, a soft-tissue injury prevented us from pursuing our Senior Trans-Tasman eventing campaign and forced his retirement at age 18 from upper level eventing. I genuinely felt like Basil was just hitting his straps in every other respect at that the ripe age. Because of Basil, I would never disregard a slightly older thoroughbred coming off the track – they may have been really successful athletes in that field which bodes well for their sport horse career or they have been developed slowly which may well pay dividends for them in terms of longevity.
At 22 years old Basil looks incredible, he out-gallops the young horses, only trots in an exuberant extended trot and has condition on him that I could only have wished for back in his competition days – perhaps the only tell-tale sign of his age is his gummy mouth lacking in teeth due to his never-ending wind-sucking.
I think the connection between ESNZ and NZTR is a really important one – I love a thoroughbred and seeing the versatility that they have in every area of equestrian sport. I also enjoy using NZTR’s resources to look up breeding, breeders and trainers to learn more about the thoroughbreds in our industry. It’s awesome to keep that connection live because at the end of the day, we all do it for the love of the horse!