Past, Present, Future: Flexible

Flexible & Rich Fellers in competition on July 5th, 2016 at Spruce Meadows.
Flexible & Rich Fellers in competition on July 5th, 2016 at Spruce Meadows.
Flexible & Rich Fellers in competition on July 5th, 2016 at Spruce Meadows.

For eight years, Flexible has been winning at the five-star level of show jumping. Eight years. It goes without saying that the 20-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Cruising x Safari) and his rider Rich Fellers are no strangers to the international level of competition. The stallion’s partnership with Fellers stretches over 14 years in total, with countless wins and successes too numerous to list, with standout moments such as their 2012 FEI World Cup Championship and London Olympic Games appearance.

Just this week, Flexible and Fellers finished 3rd in the $35,000 ATCO Energy Cup CSI5* at Spruce Meadows, proving that they are still going strong, competing at top venues and trumping the best in the world. Fellers speaks fondly of Flexible’s past, present, and the biggest questions surrounding his future. He listens to his horse of a lifetime and takes competition day-by-day, careful to preserve the winning spirit that resides in Flexible.

The Past

  • When Flexible jumped-off in the Queen’s Cup at Spruce Meadows in 2011, against Hickstead and Eric Lamaze, we were the only two double clears. Eric went first and had a very fast, clean round. Flexible and I were right on his time. As I was going over the very last oxer, I rode him forward in the air, causing him to knock the rail, which is a moment I wish I could do over.
  • As a younger horse, his athleticism was amazing. I always look for athletic horses and that was the first thing I noticed about him. I really liked all the energy he had as well, and he was a little unruly, but I didn’t mind that.
  • Our connection wasn’t instant. He was quite difficult as a young horse in a lot of different ways. It was a process to develop the trust and rideability with him.

The Present

  • Today, I have much more concern with overdoing Flexible and pushing him too hard and too fast. I have to be more cautious. That wasn’t even a thought back then, when he had so much energy. I could’ve shown him every day of the week and he wouldn’t get tired.
  • I love his desire to win and his understanding of the objectives in this sport. He tries to succeed every time he goes into the ring.
  • When people who Flexible doesn’t know try to handle him, it makes him feel very uncomfortable. He’s always suspicious of strangers. When he was a little younger, if you didn’t know him, you wouldn’t even be able to catch him in his stall.

The Future

  • A couple of Flexible’s offspring are in our barn. One is a four-year-old gelding and the other, a five-year-old filly. They’re very talented and show a lot of promise for the future.
  • As long as he stays enthusiastic about competing, we’ll keep finding good competitions to take him to.
  • When we decide to retire him, I know he’ll be very depressed. He’ll be sad to be a pasture ornament out in the field. He has so many fans in Canada and so much success there. Thunderbird or Spruce Meadows would be a great place to retire him. In the end, I think Flexible will be the one who ends up picking his retirement location.