Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu is named after the stunning Incan citadel in Peru, but the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding won’t be visiting his namesake anytime soon. The bay is instead bound for Tryon, and while that might not quite be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the North Carolina resort town is unquestionably the must-visit travel destination of the summer.
The World Equestrian Games are set to take place at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in less than two weeks’ time. There, “Machu” and longtime partner Paul O’Shea will jump their respective first championships for a formidable Irish squad led by Chef d’Equipe Rodrigo Pessoa, himself the individual gold medalist of the 1998 WEG in Rome, Italy.
“It was a goal we made a year ago to try to make the team, and to be a part of it is huge,” Paul said. “We’re delighted. Machu has been fantastic all year—he’s been really consistent and reliable. He’s a dream horse, and I’m very fortunate to have him. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Paul has ridden Machu in all of the gelding’s international starts, dating back to 2015. The levelheaded bay broke through with a major win in the $130,000 CSI3* Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport Grand Prix at the site of the upcoming WEG last October. In 2018, the pair has been a model of consistency in Nations Cup competitions on some of the world’s biggest stages. They were the only Irish combination to jump double-clear at CSIO5* Falsterbo (SWE) and CSIO5* Samorin (SVK), both of which resulted in silver medals for their team. They were also part of the Irish Nations Cup squad at Dublin (IRL), the site of Machu’s first international win three years ago, bringing them full circle.
“[Machu’s] best attribute is his mind,” O’Shea said. “He’s very brave, straightforward, and he takes everything in stride. Every ring he enters into like he’s hacking up the road. I don’t feel any tension on him at all. He’s never bothered.”
Both horse and rider will get a well-deserved opportunity in Tryon—ask around, and Paul will surely be high on fellow competitors’ lists of the sport’s kindest and most genuine horsemen. Rising to the occasion has become this pair’s trademark.
“[Machu] is quite lazy at home, so when he gets to the show, he lights up, and he knows he has a job to do,” Paul said. “Obviously, the championships will be four days of jumping, but he’s sitting strong, and I’m just really looking forward to it. He’s such a talented horse.”
What are the must-haves on the pair’s packing list for WEG? Paul says he’s quite organized for their Sept. 12 arrival in Tryon and outlined a few of their most important belongings.
- Parlanti boots — Paul’s a big fan of the soft soles of his Parlanti boots. “Leather soles are so hard on your feet,” he said. “I can wear my Parlanti boots all day!”
- Samshield helmet — Nine years ago, Paul took a scary fall that kept him out of the saddle for several months. “That [helmet] saved me, for sure,” Paul said. “I have a new one for WEG!”
Plenty of carrots — They’re Machu’s favorite.
Colored yarn — Machu’s groom, Collie, has worked for Skara Glen for 23 years. He likes to plait the top three braids in Machu’s mane with green, white and gold yarn, a nod to Ireland.
NO Shipping Boots — It’s “pretty unusual” and used to cause Paul and his team some worry, but Machu greatly dislikes traveling with boots, so he doesn’t have any.
CWD Saddle — Paul rides in a classic CWD saddle, which he says he’s ridden in for many years.
- Oakley Glasses — Paul O’Shea can pull off wearing sunglasses in the rain. He won’t leave home without his prescription Oakley glasses. He’s shortsighted, and his eyes lack a tint that shields them from the sun’s glare, so the glasses have an anti-glare tint. “I always have them on, even when it’s raining! Sometimes I get a few jokes about that, but I would find it very hard to ride without them,” Paul said.
Photos by Thomas Reiner