Monday, May. 27, 2024

Rector Hopes Flambo Will Lead Him To Victory In WEG Four-In-Hand Driving

Experience is essential when it comes to success at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, and fortunately for Josh Rector, who is competing as an individual for the United States in driving, Flambo might be one of the most experienced horses at this year’s event.

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Experience is essential when it comes to success at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, and fortunately for Josh Rector, who is competing as an individual for the United States in driving, Flambo might be one of the most experienced horses at this year’s event.

“He’s a special horse,” said Rector, Scottsdale, Ariz., of the 18-year-old gelding. “Any horse who’s gone to two, let alone three or four [WEGs] is special. I bought him as a schoolmaster. I was a young team driver, and I wanted to learn to be better. He was perfect—sound, fit and at the top of his game. We bought him with the intent of making one more WEG with him, and he’s done that. He’s still able to compete at the top of his sport.”

Flambo is a saint on the ground
and has many adoring fans.

Photo by Emily Bassett.

Michael Freund discovered Flambo as a 2-year-old out in a field. Rector said that Freund saw the horse and immediately bought him. They don’t know his breeding.

“Michael always says that ‘his father was a stallion and his mother was a mare,’ ” Rector said with a laugh. “He’s kind of one of those mistake horses that turned out to be fantastic.”

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Flambo was an essential part of Freund’s team from the get-go, and the horse’s long career included three World Equestrian Games with Freund. Now he’s contesting his fourth with Rector. While he is an older horse, he hasn’t lost any of his spunk or energy.

“I think he brings the leadership and ability and personality, but it’s also the showmanship that he brings to the team,” said Rector. “He’s smart enough to know that we’re at a show and knows when he needs to look his best. He can be a lazy horse at home, but every time you show up to a show grounds, he brings that extra 20 percent. You can see him puff up his chest and say, ‘Here I am, this is how it’s done.’ “

Rector is planning to use Flambo for at least two of the phases, but more than likely he will utilize him in all three. He said Flambo has been in the lead for every marathon he’s done up until the Games.

“He’s always done a phenomenal job for us,” said Rector. “He’s so incredibly smart, it’s funny how much he’s paying attention out there. If you start going in the wrong gap, you say his name, his ears flick, and he shoves the other horses out of the way. You almost don’t have to drive the other horse.”

In driving, the two horses in the front are called “leaders” and the two horses nearest to the carriage are called “wheelers.” Flambo doesn’t exactly like being a wheel horse. In harness, he’s hot and ready to work, but on the ground, he’s as easy going as they come.

“Grooms and people that work around him, they get so attached to him. It’s pretty fascinating,” said Rector. “The day I bought Flambo, all the grooms were crying to see him leave. It’s pretty touching to see people so attached to this horse. It’s touching to get e-mails from grooms who’ve worked with him through the years and realize how attached they are. Flambo is as easy as he possibly could be on the ground. Which is funny because at the marathon he’s the one pawing the ground and ready to go all the time. He’s a saint on the ground.”

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Rector said he really doesn’t do anything special to maintain Flambo aside from wrapping his legs at night to prevent wind puffs. All of his horses are on KeraFlex EQ, a joint supplement, and vitamins, as well as Succeed, a digestive supplement. He said Flambo has never even had his joints injected.

“He’s 18 going on 5,” Rector said with a laugh. “He’s not just in the lead; he tries to do it all himself. He’s got the ultimate work ethic. It’s really fun, especially with an 18-year-old horse. Most horses are at the end of their careers, but he’s just not one of those horses.”

While Flambo has been at the top of combined driving for the majority of his career, Rector plans to slowly transition him into retirement after the WEG.

“We’ll start stepping back from competition; he doesn’t have any physical ailments, but he definitely has had a long career,” said Rector. “We’ll keep using him at home for training young horses. He can drag them through the competition and teach them some things. We’ll step him back, but he won’t disappear completely. He’s heading for retirement, but he’s not there yet. He deserves a great retirement. All of our horses do. He’s a horse who has no background, but has been so successful for Michael and for me as well. He loves his job so much. He’s 18, and he’s still rock solid. It’s pretty phenomenal.”


Photo by Emily Bassett.

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