Thursday, Jun. 6, 2024

Warco Van De Halhoeve Aces The Test At Thunderbird British Columbia Open

Ali Nilforushan says winning the grand prix is a big step in the brown gelding’s education.

 Ali Nilforushan knows that Warco Van De Halhoeve is a good horse. But he also knows that “Warco” has some rough edges.

Those edges are looking a little smoother after the $47,438 Thunderbird British Columbia Open Grand Prix, held May 31 in Langley, B.C. Nilforushan and Warco blazed to victory more than 2 seconds faster than Jennifer Crooks on S.F. Sadin.

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Ali Nilforushan says winning the grand prix is a big step in the brown gelding’s education.

 Ali Nilforushan knows that Warco Van De Halhoeve is a good horse. But he also knows that “Warco” has some rough edges.

Those edges are looking a little smoother after the $47,438 Thunderbird British Columbia Open Grand Prix, held May 31 in Langley, B.C. Nilforushan and Warco blazed to victory more than 2 seconds faster than Jennifer Crooks on S.F. Sadin.

“Jennifer went first, and she was quite quick, but it was a really wide-open jump-off, with a lot of long gallops, and Warco has such a big stride. It was a good jump-off for him,” Nilforushan said.

Warco had a break in his competitive career in 2007 to recover from white line disease, so he’s a bit behind schedule. “He’s only been doing grand prix for 11⁄2 years, and he’s shown all over. I’ve been trying to teach him,” Nilforushan said.

“He went through a little slump, but out of the last five grand prix classes, he placed in three of them. [Because of the white line disease], he missed a lot of education in the middle, in the 1.40-meter division, where he would have learned how to run fast and turn fast,” Nilforushan added. “But now, finally, we put a jump-off together. It was a good class for his education.”

Crooks also considered the class a good test of her horse’s education. She took the winter off from showing and said it did a world of good for S.F. Sadin.

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Crooks bought Sadin from Eric Lamaze last year.

“He’s really talented but a little tough and quirky. He’s got a ton of scope, but he’s very hot. He’s strong, and he’s super sensitive. I just had to learn how to channel all of his talent. I think we got it now,” she said.

Crooks had only shown Sadin, a 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood by Lancelot, once this year before the Thunderbird show.

“It really came together at Thunderbird. That class was really technical, and it was a nice course to jump clean on him, because it showed we really have it together now,” she said.

Crooks and her husband, Mike, spent the winter moving from their former home in Kirkland, Wash., to a new farm in Sandpoint, Idaho.

“It’s halfway between Seattle and Calgary [Alta.], so it was our layover spot when we were traveling to Spruce Meadows. The longer we were there for layovers, the more we liked it. It’s kind of a hippy, outdoorsy kind of town. It’s a great town to live in. It’s close to Spruce, and Spruce is where we show the most, so it’ll work out well. We were very fortunate that clients chose to send their horses with us,” Crooks said.

Coming along are nine children, soon to be joined by a 10th. Mike and Jennifer’s family includes Mike’s two children, two biological children of their own, a niece of Jennifer’s that they adopted and four children they’ve adopted from China. In July, a baby adopted from Ethiopia will be joining the brood. The ages range from 23 to the baby, with six children under the age of 12.

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“There’s not a lot of quiet time, but we have fun,” Jennifer said. “That’s what we love—horses and kids. We moved for the kids. Everybody home-schools, so we all go on the road.”

After settling on Sandpoint, the Crookses built a farm. “Mike’s been a trainer forever, so he built his dream barn and laid the farm out just the way he wanted. It’s a beautiful farm, all built by Mennonites, so it’s all wood,” Jennifer said.

Even though Jennifer wasn’t able to show Sadin because of the time-consuming move, she did have time to ride him.

“I did tons of flatwork for six months. The jumps are completely natural for him, but he wasn’t super broke on the flat. He’s a really nervous and intense horse, so we just spent time on the flat trying to relax him. We wanted him to mellow out and use his scope the right way. We did a lot of gymnastics, too, in true Bert de Nemethy style,” she said.

Jennifer hopes that Sadin will be her ticket back to the international-level classes. She was a member of the winning Irish team at the 2005 CN Nations Cup in Wellington, Fla., aboard S.F. Cassandra, but the big gray mare has since retired to broodmare status and just had her first foal.

Jennifer receives some training help from Irish superstar Eddie Macken, but Mike has been the guiding force in her career. “I couldn’t do it without him,” she said.

The Crookses will spend the summer showing at Spruce Meadow, but Jennifer hopes to return to the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit next year.

“We plan on trying to step it up and make a bid in the future with Sadin for some bigger stuff,” she said.

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