Sporthorse Star: Z

Get to know Z, Phillip Dutton's mount for the Summer Games in Tokyo.

Occupation: Eventer

Breed: Zangersheide

Breeding: Asca Z out of Bellabouche

Age: 13

Sex: Gelding

Owners: Tom Tierney, Simon Roosevelt, Suzanne Lacy, Annie Jones and Caroline Moran.

Major accomplishments: 13th at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, NC; top 10 finisher at the 2018, 2019 and 2021 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event.

Phillip Dutton and Z at the 2020 Wellington Eventing Showcase. © Amy K. Dragoo

How did you come to ride Z?

I was looking for a horse and Carol Gee, who has found a lot of my horses, heard about him. He is being ridden by Duarte Seabra, he’s a Portuguese rider, and he was changing from an event rider into the show jumping discipline, so he put [Z] on the market. I actually flew with Carol to Portugal to try him—I was [only] there for the afternoon. 

What is he like to ride?

He’s a real trier. He’s a hard horse. Like, everything is a little bit on edge in all phases, mainly because he wants to do everything right. He kind of anticipates what’s going on and he’s always thinking ahead. He’s an incredible jumper and gives me a great feeling of being a good partner with me. 

What are his strengths?

He’s just such an honest horse. He just looks for the flags and, technically, he’s a very good jumper. It’s just trying to guide him to the direction I want to go and he usually draws me into it. He’s coming into his own now. He’s very experienced in all three phases and getting pretty reliable. So hopefully, if [we’re selected for] the Olympics, he can be pretty competitive. 

Phillip Dutton and Z at the 2021 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. © Julia Murphy

Is there any specific work you do with him to address any training challenges?

Generally, with him being a nervous or highly-strung horse, [I try] to slow everything down, make him think a little bit more. Especially with the jumping, I don’t want him to become too frantic and just get to the other side. I want him to learn and think and analyze as we’re going along. A lot of [the work] is very methodical. Just getting him to back off of the jump and not rush to the other side. It’s nothing too technical, but we just try to give him the understanding that when the jump is there, we don’t have to rush to the other side, just take your time.

Do you practice any specific exercises to help him with that?

Gymnastic exercises are good for setting up anything to make him think about using his self-preservation and learn to shorten up his stride and not just launch at the jumps. There’s no set exercise that I do, I try to vary it and give him things to think about. 

Do you have a healthcare routine for him?

Cosequin is great for the horses joints and keeping them supple. You know, it takes so long to prepare your horse and get them educated enough for this five-star level. So, you don’t want them worn out by the time you get them there. So, definitely Cosequin. And, a lot of the feeding. It’s important to be able to vary the horses’ feed. We use the Triple Crown Feed. So, depending on what stage of work he’s in, I’ll adjust the type of feed that he gets depending on what stage of his fitness program he’s in. In general, just trying to make him a better athlete—to keep an eye on his weight—making sure he’s not too skinny, but then, you don’t want him carrying too much weight around the course as well. 

Certainly, for the Olympics, it’s going to be hard. You want a horse that’s super fit there, but also it’s quite a long flight to get there, which is not the easiest on horses. So, you have to go in with a little bit of [extra] weight knowing that he’s probably going to lose some pounds by the time he gets to Tokyo. 

What are your upcoming plans with him?

He’s had about two weeks off [since the Kentucky Three-Day Event] and so we’ll just slowly start the flatwork up and then the fitness work and probably start jumping in a couple of weeks. 

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