There’s a new winner in Kent Farrington’s string of horses—except that this one isn’t exactly new, per se.
Sherkan D’Amaury first came to the current World No. 1 rider’s barn two years ago, but the Selle Francais gelding (Kannan—Lily d’Amaury, Quick Star) colicked in February 2016, just as he was reaching peak status in Farrington’s talent-rich stables.
“First, everyone said he wouldn’t make it past the surgery, then they said that he wouldn’t make it through rehab,” said Denise Moriarty, Farrington’s longtime groom. “But he made it through both and now he’s better than ever.”
Making his return to the competition arena this winter in Wellington, Fla., “Sherkan” and Farrington won the $35,000 Suncast 1.50-meter Championship Jumper Classic in February. Farrington then kept the leggy, bay gelding at the 1.45-1.50-meter height through the Winter Equestrian Festival.
To begin their spring competition circuit, the pair won a 1.55-meter feature class at Jumping Antwerp CSI5* (Belgium) in April and quickly followed the performance up with their first major win: the £254,000 Rolex Grand Prix at the Royal Windsor Horse Show CSI5*. It was Sherkan’s first 1.60-meter grand prix.
We wanted to learn everything about Sherkan, the survivor and the fighter, so we went behind his stall door:
• Sherkan D’Amaury was bred at the well regarded French breeding farm, Haras D’Amaury. He was born in June 2006.
• Farrington, along with his fellow co-owners Haity McNerney and Daniel Crown, purchased the horse through Farrington’s friend and Italian rider, Emanuele Camilli.
• He’s often referred to as “Sherkan” as a nickname, but his close connections know him as “Sharkie.”
• Sharkie jumped the in the Nations Cup for Team USA at the Winter Equestrian Festival in February 2016 and that week’s grand prix but colicked the week after.
“We always have to watch for his drinking and [his bodily functions],” said Moriarty. “He colicked because of dehydration.”
“[Before he colicked], I had actually shortlisted him as an Olympic potential [mount] a year ago,” Farrington said. “I had a feeling he could come on strong and then we lost the whole year with him and started up fresh this winter.”
• He no longer has much of a colon.
“They removed a lot,” Moriarty explained. “He’s lucky to have survived.”
• Sharkie remained in Florida for his entire recovery process .
“He started his recovery in Florida,” Moriarty said. “It was a big surgery with a big incision so he stayed in Florida for the whole summer. We gave him more time than necessary to recover.
“He’s a little bit of a worrier,” she added. “So travel after the operation wasn’t a good idea. So Kent kept him in one place to have him ready to go in the fall.”
• In the ring, Sharkie is notably tall. Up close and personal, he towers well into the 17-hand range and has a gentle giant quality about him.
• Sharkie’s home routine consists of going on the walker in the morning followed by a ride with Farrington. Later in the day, he goes out for a hand graze.
“He gallops around the field like a Thoroughbred so we don’t [turn him out] too often,” said Moriarty. “We don’t let him loose for too long.”
• On a competition day, Sharkie goes out for a hack and spends time in an Activo-Med magnetic blanket.
“I have him stand on a magnetic foot pad while braiding him for a class,” said Moriarty. “Then he goes back into the stall for a pee and then he’s ready to go to the ring.”
• Unsurprisingly, Sharkie is the type to look to his people for confidence.
“He needs to know that everything is OK,” Moriarty said. “I tell him, ‘You will survive the wash bay, you’re not going to die, it’s OK.’
“But he’s a different horse after surgery. He eats more food and has more of a personality. It’s like he stared death in the face and decided nothing can really scare him now.”
• His favorite treats are Likits and Uncle Jimmy’s Hangin’ Balls.
“It takes him a little while to know what to do with them but he’s happy to play with them,” said Moriarty.
• Sharkie’s daily hay is supplemented with Cavalor feed and with Purina Senior, fed four times a day. The latter was kept in his diet because it’s what he ate during his recuperation process.
• Moriarty uses ice boots on Sharkie after he jumps including ice bell boots.
“Normally, I use IV bags with ice at home but it’s hard to find ice at shows,” she said.
• Sharkie is a sensitive boy, and Moriarty uses a lot of Vaseline on him so nothing irritates his skin.
• He also has a very sensitive mouth so Farrington uses a soft, rubber pelham bit with a port and a noseband adapted from a hackabit bridle.
• Sharkie is very much partial to people that he already knows.
“He has to know you before he’ll snuggle with you,” Moriarty said. “If we send a stranger to put on his halter, that person is walking around for a while to get him.”
• The quirkiest thing about Sharkie for Moriarty: he gets up like a camel, with his back legs first.
“He must have learned that one as a foal,” she said, with a laugh.