It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, Todd Minikus was having a hard time getting interest in a sale horse that had come into his barn. The wide-eyed bay mare had come from Belgium as a potential junior jumper prospect, but Minikus couldn’t get anyone to come and try her out. Not one to give up easily, Minikus started showing her himself, and the rest is history.
The horse was Quality Girl, a now 10-year-old Oldenburg mare (Quidam’s Rubin x Dobrock) that is owned by Minikus and the Quality Group. Since Minikus picked up her reins in 2013, the two have put an incredible amount of money in the bank: they have earned five top placings in the HITS $1 Million Grand Prix series alone, including a 1st place in September, 2014. Over the past weekend at the Kentucky Spring Series CSI3* in Lexington, Kentucky, they added three FEI wins in a row to their record, which makes for over a dozen FEI wins in the last three years, and twice as many top ten placings.
More impressive was that just prior to his successful win streak in Lexington, Minikus was in Europe with his other top horse and Olympic team prospect Babalou. Depending on his stateside team to keep Quality Girl in shape and show ready was a formula that worked, and just before Minikus flew back to Europe to rejoin Babalou, we caught up with him to find out more about the talented Quality Girl and how he’s juggling her grand prix career with his bid for an Olympic appearance.
Q: This streak of wins is another high point for Quality Girl, who already has an impressive record. Who gets the credit, your wife for keeping her going while you were away, the courses at Kentucky, or Quality Girl herself?
A: She should have won the first grand prix in the circuit in WEF. She had a cheap four faults. She did win the second grand prix of WEF, she was clear in the Thursday WEF—that was kind of a streak. She was clear in another grand prix during the winter.
Now she’s a professional show horse. She knows what the deal is now. It’s comforting to have that horse that you know is going to show up and be on the job and be on the job every single day. Amazing thing about this week’s performance is that she went so fast in each and every class. That was the thing about this week that was impressive: that she went that fast and kept getting better each class. Hats off to her for that.
My wife [Amanda] rode her and [her groom] Shannon McDonald has been taking care of her while I was in Europe. My wife gave her a couple schools, and she didn’t need that much jumping really. She jumped enough during the winter circuit that she didn’t need too much. They did a good job of keeping her in just enough work.
Q: Was your week in Lexington as simple as “when you’re on, you’re on?” or was there more to it?
A: I think there’s always more to it than that. Between her and Babalou, I had the most clear rounds in grand prix classes during the winter circuit. Between those two mares, I had a fantastic year so far. There’s a lot that goes into it. Anybody that does this knows that it takes a whole team of people, vets, blacksmiths, sponsors, to make it all work in your favor.
Q: How did you handle the travel back and forth from Europe and prepare yourself to be the best for your horse?
A: As long as you get a good seat on the plane you can sleep.
Q: It’s clear that Quality Girl is hot, and fast. What’s her personality like back in the barn?
A: She doesn’t have a barn name, no nickname. Just Quality Girl. She’s not that friendly. She doesn’t require too much love in the barn. She’d rather that you kind of stay away from her.
Q: Sometimes her high energy seems to get in her own way; we’ve seen you take big wins, and also have the odd runout with Quality Girl. How do you make it work?
A: I spend my whole time just trying to manage her. She goes in her own way and does her own thing so the big thing is to not disrupt her too much.
Q: With these wins, is Quality Girl showing you that perhaps she wants to jump the Olympic observation events?
A: I think she’s more of a grand prix horse, not a championships horse or a Games horse. I think she’s more of a grand prix horse.
Q: How did you make the call on that between her and Babalou?
A: Quality Girl’s a little more finicky and a little more temperamental. She’s specific about what kind of footing she likes. If some of the selection trials weren’t on grass, I would’ve taken Quality Girl, but she doesn’t like to show on grass or real soft footing.
Some selection trials are on grass, which is kind of a funny thing. I always struggle with why we show on grass when we’re trying to qualify for a show or venue that’s going to be on dirt. Like race horses that race on grass versus dirt track horses—the horses are specific to the footing and prefer one over the other. I think some show jumpers are the same way. So I don’t know why we look for selection events that are on grass when we’re specifically targeting a competition on all weather footing.
Q: Now you head back across the Atlantic to join Babalou at St Gallen. What will Quality Girl’s program be like while you’re gone?
A: Hopefully, Amanda and Shannon will ride her, and we’ll feed her Purina and get her back to feeling strong. Hopefully, she’ll be ready to show in the 5* at Tryon [in June]. Everything else beyond that is still up in the air and depends on how all that other stuff goes.