Breeding: Windfall out of Thabana
Owner: Christine Turner
Career highlights: Team and individual gold medals at the 2019 Lima Pan American Games, 2nd overall at the 2019 Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L.
Can you tell us a little bit about Tsetserleg?
He’s a great horse. He’s represented America at the World Equestrian Games and Pan American Games and got second at the [Kentucky Three-Day Event] five-star. He’s done it all. He’s still got a lot left in the tank. He’s a strong, tough, resilient horse that I feel like is going to be around for a couple more years. It’s pretty exciting to have him there because he can mix in on the flat in the dressage with the best horses in the world. So, it’s just awesome having a horse that you feel like you could go to any competition anywhere and have a good chance.
How did you come to ride him?
A mate of mine, Mike Pollard, was riding him and he quit riding and he was nice enough to recommend to the owner, Christine Turner, to give me a crack with the horse. It’s something I’ll be forever grateful for—Michael recommending me to get the ride—because he’s just one of those horses that’s just that been influential in my career.
What did you think of him when you first got him?
He’s an interesting horse, he definitely didn’t blow me away. When he turned up, I didn’t think much of him, which goes to show how much I know. He was a bit small, didn’t sort of show that much in training, but then when you went to the competition, he gave you the championship feel. He’s just been a tough, sound horse that’s an absolute real trier. And that counts, I think, more than these flashy show ponies that crack under pressure.
Are there any specific training exercises that you work on with him?
I think that with the dressage, it’s all about getting him using his body. Like, he does all the movements great, [but] really getting him stretching and using all of his muscles. Cross country he’s really, really brave. Turning, I think, is something that we’re always working on to make sure that he corners well. And the show jumping is just relaxation. He jumps best when he’s just chill.
What are some of his strengths?
Well, on these big, long, grueling courses, at about eight or nine minutes of an 11-minute course, he’s got grunt. You give him a little spur or a cluck and he gets a second wind. That’s something you can’t train into them.
What’s his personality like in the barn?
He’s like a little kid’s pony. All the girls drool over him and he’s very friendly to be around. He’s very cuddly and cute. All the girls that work for me are in love with him. He’s a really kind character.
How is Thomas different from your other horses Luke 140 and On Cue?
For me, with Luke, the biggest thing is relaxation. It doesn’t matter if I’m doing dressage, cross-country or show jumping, we’re really spending my first chunk of time on him getting him relaxed and stretching and going in a nice soft frame. To get there, I like a lot of lateral work in my walk, trot and canter—leg yielding and shoulder-in—and bending him around and moving him around to try to get him to use all of his body. Thomas—more lengthening and shortening. Like, trying to get him expanding his stride and then really sinking back and cantering up and down on the spot. On Cue—I think the hard thing with her is she’s quite a spooky horse. So, coming out with a plan of not getting aggressive in the way that you ride her when she’s spooky at the beginning of the show. Sort of just ease your way in and have a plan of getting it with the dressage test and getting the spook out of her. I try to do it in a tactful way, not a forceful way.
For more exclusive international eventing updates with Vita Flex (bit.ly/vita-flex-pro_tokyo) leading up to and including the Games, visit practicalhorsemanmag.com/summer-games-2021.