[dropcap]H[/dropcap]aving represented his country too many times to remember, experienced campaigner and Team Nissan showjumping captain, Barry Taylor, says the equestrian gap between South Africa and the rest of the world is narrowing due to access worldwide to top-quality semen as well as an improved selection of mares.
The game abroad
Barry started competing under licence as a 17-year-old in 1978, and has been an industry stalwart for 38 years now. “The first overseas competition I watched was the World Championships in Aachen in the early 1980s, and Gail Greenough from Canada won it. It was mind-blowing seeing 60,000 spectators a day watching showjumping in the pouring rain. Since then I have competed in or watched many great shows in Europe, America and New Zealand, including three World Champs, and Nations Cups in La Baule, Rotterdam, Hickstead, Lummen, Aachen and Hamburg, to name a few. I would say the German shows are the best for the spectators: the way the arenas are run; bands and entertainment … everything is geared towards a great sporting event. In my opinion, all the big shows are amazing, but the normal weekend shows are all the same anywhere in the world: boring.”
Having won an excess of 50 Grands Prixs and major championships, Barry says that watching the Olympic Games is still very much a priority, as well as the World Equestrian Games.
“Events such as these are on a whole new level – the prize money at overseas three-, four- or five-star events are huge, plus their event management budgets are immense. In South Arica, we have three or four events of European quality in my opinion, namely Nissan Easter Festiva, Nissan Winter Classic, Revil World Cup Qualifier and the South African Derby. They also have four- or five-week tours in the winter, which is good for producing horses and the buying and selling of horses. In terms of the improvements needed in our sport in South Africa, I believe there are a few: firstly an increase in prize money, and secondly taking the sport to the public – increasing event attendance and general knowledge of the sport for all to enjoy. Another area where we are lagging behind is the treatment of our owners and sponsors. Sponsors and owners are the most important people at European shows: ticket sales, VIP tables, access to stables and training areas are all promoted and pushed. Unfortunately, I have to say the riders in South Africa are the worst offenders, as most look at sponsorship as a donation – it is not! Sponsors and owners want something back for what they put in; it is a two-way street.”
Listing his three best horse-and-rider combinations in the world as Ludger Beerbaum, Simon Delestre and McLain Ward, Barry says that generally the flatwork is much better in Europe and America versus South Africa. “Germany would be the most adamant about flatwork and the most successful country in the world. They have a big dressage base in their training. South Africa lags behind in its flatwork, but as more people ride overseas it is improving. In terms of showjumping, the South African standard at its highest is three-star level, as we only have a handful of European top jumping horses. However, we have a lot of top riders who could compete anywhere in the world as well as some really talented young riders. The thing with this sport is that it takes money to purchase horsepower, which then results in opportunities. If you are jumping at four- or five-star level every week, and you have the talent and horses, you will rise to that level and produce the desired results.”
It’s in the blood
When looking for horses for clients, Barry says that the breeding is your first point of call. “Breeding doesn’t lie, so a good pedigree or family will always shine through. I generally look for horses in Germany, Holland, Belgium and the United Kingdom. I have a few people I deal with, and give them what I am looking for plus a video of the purchaser riding. They then source select horses for me, so that we’re not just looking at a whole lot of horses who are totally unsuitable. Our weak rand proves challenging when keeping within budget and finding a great horse who suits the rider and also passes vetting. The hardest part, however, is knowing whether the horse you chose will gel with the new rider – which is why you need a good, experienced person (preferably someone with a proven record of choosing good horses) to go with you when choosing a steed. You also then need to have someone who must make it work when the horse gets to South Africa – we all make mistakes, but I have yet to see any trainer trying anything short of their best to find the best horse for their client.”
“I have bought some great Grand Prix horses for myself and Lorette, including Nissan Nabab Forever, Avalanche, Sundays Eagle, Maniolia, and Jansens Nissan Catwalk 22, to name a few. Great client horses include Poloma, Payback and Contest for Dominique Hau; Zloggi and Askada for Lauren Smorenburg; Quilleto for Bob Neill; Countdown for Tracy Triggol; Hatsy for Aisling O’Connor; and Radetsky March for Cara Frew. Those partnerships have all worked well because of knowing the pupil, doing the homework, and then correctly fitting the horse to the rider. It takes a lot of hard work on the ground with the new combination finding their feet together and establishing trust and understanding.”
Text: Barry Taylor accompanied by Caroline Malan
Photography: Jessica Röll, Jacky S Photography
The full issue appears in the August issue of HQ: shop now