Q&A: Kent Farrington and his Naturally Very Careful, Sometimes Spooky Partner Gazelle - Expert how-to for English Riders

Q&A: Kent Farrington and his Naturally Very Careful, Sometimes Spooky Partner Gazelle

Kent Farrington talks about Gazelle, the mare that he’ll be riding at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Lexington
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November 3, 2016—Gazelle is as fleet as her namesake, arcing high over the jumps and running flat out when seconds count. The 10-year-old Belgian warmblood won the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping New York at the American Gold Cup CSI4*–W, September 18, 2016 for her owners, Robin Parsky and rider Olympic silver medalist Kent Farrington. Next, she’ll compete at the $250,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Lexington presented by CP at the CP National Horse Show, November 1–6, 2016.

Kent Farrington and Gazelle won the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping New York at the American Gold Cup in September | © Lawrence J. Nagy

Kent Farrington and Gazelle won the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping New York at the American Gold Cup in September | © Lawrence J. Nagy

Kent talked about his relationship with Gazelle, who spooked past the finish line in the jump-off in New York to send him flying. After the tumble, he handled it with a smile, bowing for the crowd at Old Salem Farm in North Salem.

You’ve said Gazelle can be spooky, and we all saw evidence of that in the class in New York. What’s the story there?

I try to pick horses who are naturally very careful. What comes from that is a horse who is really aware of his or her surroundings and a little bit skittish or apprehensive about anything new or anything that moves quickly.

Something was over by the pond she didn’t like. I wasn’t paying attention, and when you’re not paying attention with horses like that, they move fast and she caught me off guard.

How long have you been working with Gazelle?

I got Gazelle when she was 7. This year, she really stepped up to be a solid grand prix horse for me and I’m thrilled with her progress and her success.

What was the key to working with her?

KF: A horse who is that careful just takes time. They need a lot of experience in the ring so they understand the job, understand how to jump the combinations and really know what’s expected of them.

What’s she like around the barn?

She’s really sweet in the stable, she’s very quiet—a little opposite of how she is in the competition arena. She’s a good pet; like a puppy, really friendly.

And yet she has a red ribbon in her tail when she’s at the show?

She’s all business when it comes to the ring, so nobody’s going to get in her way or in her space.

Why did you select her?

She was very, very careful. In today’s sport, for professional riding, someone who’s accurate, that’s what you want—a horse who’s extremely careful. It takes a little extra time to produce them, but I think in the end you get a special horse.

The Gold Cup trophy is presented to Kent by show manager Michael Morrissey, the FEI’s Connie Sawyer and Alan Keeley | © Nancy Jaffer

The Gold Cup trophy is presented to Kent by show manager Michael Morrissey, the FEI’s Connie Sawyer and Alan Keeley | © Nancy Jaffer

Is she as much of a professional as you are?

Time will tell. I’d like to think I’m that good, and I hope she can keep going like I want to keep going.

Are you trying to qualify for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Omaha, Nebraska (March 29–April 4, 2017)?

I’d like to go if I feel like I have a horse who’s on form at that time. I’ve been to the final a few times. I really only want to go if I think I’m going to be a contender. But I’d like to plan on going right now.

You have a deep string of horses, so shouldn’t you have one that can do it?

The final is a very particular type of competition. It’s in a small indoor arena, so you really need an indoor specialist and they have to be able to hold up over five rounds, which also is a lot of jumping. I wouldn’t necessarily take Voyeur (his 2016 Rio Olympic team silver medal mount), who’s an older horse who’s done multiple championships already for me. That would be a big ‘ask’ of him at this point in his career. I’d rather spot him toward individual competitions. If one of my younger ones is ready to go, then I’ll take a swing at it.