It takes a special horse to win a World Cup Final. The qualification process can be taxing, the athletic demands and courses are mind-boggling, and the atmosphere can be overwhelming, even for seasoned horses. So when Breitling LS turned his (major) championship debut into a win at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Paris earlier this year with Beezie Madden, it was all the more impressive.
Now, they're well on their way towards possibly another victory, with the pair winning Saturday's $135,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Washington at the Washington International Horse Show.
Watch: Beezie and Breitling's winning round at WIHS.
Their performances are impressive, but not altogether shocking, according to the man who developed the now 12-year-old stallion as a young horse. Jeroen Dubbeldam brought Breitling along at his home base in the Netherlands until Beezie took over the ride in 2013 when Breitling was seven.
Dubbeldam recalls a young Breitling with loads of potential and athletic ability – an ability that would need to be refined, nurtured, and handled with care, from his early training with Dubbeldam to his 2018 World Cup title with Madden.
I spoke with Dubbledam on Breitling’s early days to understand just how he has become the current – and possibly future – World Cup Winner he is today.
Originally bought as a two-year-old from Mexico at La Silla Stud, Dubbledam then brought Breitling over to Holland and got him approved as a stallion when he was three.
“I was in love with the horse. We broke him and straight away you could see in the loose jumping, he had amazing qualities,” he shared. “When we started jumping him under saddle, you could see immediately that he was a fantastic jumper. He was a horse that jumped with unbelievable use of his body, very high over fences but with a long front-end.
So his technique wasn’t super as a four-year-old but he was still a spectacular jumper. But he was a clever horse. When the fences were low when he was four, he’d jump like that with a little bit of a long leg. But once the fences got bigger and he was older, he was very clever in how he developed his technique in the front. That is something not easy for a rider to teach a horse.
I think the horse has to understand himself a little bit on how to use the front end. Okay, it’s up to the rider to give him a chance, of course, but the rider has to always give the horse the right distance so he gets a lot of confidence to use the front end in the right way.”
Putting The Pieces Together
Breitling showed early signs of brilliance, but he overjumped and began to twist his front end over the fences. It was Dubbledam’s approach that ensured the young stallion would keep improving and learning – and not burn out.
“As a young horse he was over-jumping and jumping too high so we made it simple. We didn’t do a lot of gymnastics because he was too high to do that and then he would twist with his front end. So we made a lot of single fences and every time tried to give him the same distance so that he got a lot of confidence and strong so he wouldn’t twist anymore."
WATCH: Breitling LS as a four-year-old, ridden by Dubbledam’s home rider Sjaak Sleiderink:
I think that’s what also made him jump with a better technique. He was winning all the competitions as a four-year-old stallion in Holland, winning the five-year-old stallion competitions – he was always very successful as a young horse. He was very focused. In the ring at the shows, he was always there and kept producing clear round after another – a super instinct in the ring. Breilting, straight away, was 95% jumping clear rounds and that’s something you can’t teach, it’s the instinct of the horse. Jumping clear rounds is something the horse wants or doesn’t want. That is why I always believed in him.”
Beezie Was the Absolute Best Choice To Take Over The Ride
Her name alone should be enough, but it was much more than Madden’s incredible talent that finally led Dubbledam’s decision to let her have the ride.
“He was a horse that went to the right place in my eyes. The plan was never to sell him. I always had a good contact with John and Beezie Madden since I was a young boy. If there’s one address to sell a horse to, it’s Beezie's. You also have a good chance that you’ll see the horse back in the future, which was very important to me – to see this horse go to people like that, like Beezie and others, but there aren’t that many like those.
He’s improved so much since being in their program. When Beezie got him when he was a seven-year-old, he was jumping 1.35m/1.40m classes so there was a lot of work to be done and they developed the horse fantastically.
It was fantastic that Breitling won [the World Cup]. You can always talk about how great the horse is, but he was also fantastically ridden, we must not forget that. The horse went to the right place. A horse with such quality, if it goes to the wrong place, you’ll never hear from the horse again. The capability was in the horse, but you need to have professional people to bring it forward. They did a fantastic job. As you can understand, I’m very happy with the situation.”
The Moments When Everything Comes Together
How do you put into words, the emotion of having one of the sport’s living legends win two World Cup titles while riding your horses?
“It makes me proud. I’m a rider myself, but you cannot ride forever. If my future in this world is training and dealing, of course not yet (I still have some years left riding!) but for me, it’s a fantastic picture. One of the greatest riders in the world has won two World Cup Finals on horses that have come from my stable. [I'm so proud!]”
Photos by Thomas Reiner.