Friday, May. 24, 2024

Winner Of The Week: Spooner’s In The Spotlight With An Exciting Young Horse

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A veteran of 15 FEI World Cup Finals and countless grand prix wins, Richard Spooner has been known for much of his career as the “Master of Faster.” 

The 53-year-old rider has pared down his string of horses since moving from California to Ocala, Florida, in 2021, and he’s enjoying the slower pace of life with less time on the road, but his drive and competitiveness haven’t slowed down in the ring.

On Jan. 20, he lived up to his nickname yet again when he topped the $100,000 Lifeforce Grand Prix at the World Equestrian Center—Ocala on Molly Ohrstrom’s Halcon, a 9-year-old Argentinian Sport Horse stallion (Con Air 7—Jota-E Calista, Cardento 993), who Spooner calls “the kind of horse that can make you look like you know what you’re doing.” It was the stallion’s first time under the lights, and the pair finished nearly 2 seconds faster than second-placed Luis Sabino Gonçalves and Scoop De Septon Z.

Richard Spooner and Molly Ohrstrom’s Halcon blazed to victory in the $100,000 Lifeforce Grand Prix at the World Equestrian Center-Ocala on Jan. 20. Andrew Ryback Photography Photo

“When he came here a few years back, when I moved to Florida, he was doing the 1.10-meters in one of the back rings, so for him to come and do that grand prix—that was his first Saturday night, and he far exceeded my expectations,” Spooner said. “I was just hoping for a nice, confident round. I couldn’t have been any happier with his progress.”

Halcon was somewhat of an impulse purchase for Spooner during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although he wasn’t in the market for a horse, friends alerted him to the 4-year-old stallion in Argentina, and Spooner was impressed with a video of him jumping at home. It was the first time he’d ever bought a horse off a video.

“He’d never shown before, but watching him jump at home was so spectacular that I was happily obligated to send it off to Molly, and she moved on it,” he said.

Once in the U.S., Halcon proved to be easy to bring along. 

“He’s a spectacular horse,” Spooner said. “I swear he’s been reincarnated. It’s almost like he knows the sport. He’s always been super easy. I’ve never had any struggles with him. He’s freakishly careful, yet not spooky; he has a ton of scope, yet he’s able to maintain control over his body. He’s very adept and coordinated. He has no problem with water. He understands the sport. He’s the kind of horse that can make you look like you know what you’re doing.

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“The partnership just keeps getting stronger and stronger,” he added. “He really has a phenomenal personality, and he and I get along very well. I’m hoping that we’re fostering a long, healthy relationship.”

The stallion has jumped in a few small FEI classes, and Spooner will continue to take his time as they move up the levels.

“His goals will be whatever unfolds for him,” he said. “I always feel like it’s taking a long time, because I’ve had him a long time, but … he’s very young, and I have to be cautious and respectful. Every time I move him up, he always exceeds my expectations as he did last Saturday. I’ll just gently push him along.”

Watch their winning jump-off round, courtesy of World Equestrian Center:

Halcon goes in a simple noseband and a French D-ring bit with a small copper rollerball on the mouthpiece. He’s also barefoot. 

“He’s very accommodating; he’s very catlike; he slows down; he comes back to me really well,” said Spooner. “He’s one of those horses who’s so well-balanced on his own that there’s no reason to have a lot of stuff on him. [The bridle] seems to make him happy. He’s just a wonderful horse to train and show.”

Spooner had always had a keen interest in horseshoeing and said he’s able to keep his horses’ feet in shape in between farrier visits. When he moved to Florida, he pulled his horses’ shoes and kept them trimmed for a year before finding farrier Shane Allen. 

“I defer to his excellence,” he said. “With the horses being barefoot, they have a tendency to wear their sole out a little bit, so from time to time you need to put shoes back on them so they can build back a little bit of sole, but as long as they have a nice cushion in their hoof and the footing is just right, you don’t necessarily have to have shoes. I’m saving as much money as I can!”

When Spooner and his wife Kaylen Spooner traded California for a 5-acre farm with a seven-stall barn in Oxford, Florida, near Ocala, it was a major change in lifestyle.

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“I felt like Kurt Russell in ‘Escape From New York,’ except it was escape from Los Angeles,” he said with a laugh.  “It’s a gentleman’s farm just waiting for a gentleman to come along!” he said. “For the last few years, it’s been quite pleasant. It’s the first time in my life that I haven’t been on the road non-stop. It’s been quite a departure.”

“I think at this point in my career, I will just let the road lead where it goes. It’s about the joy of the process a bit more, rather than the destination.”

Richard Spooner

Richard keeps busy with horses like longtime partner Quirado RC, a 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Quinar Z—Ursula, San Patrignano Corrado) owned by Show Jumping Syndications Int’l. He also has a few horses in the barn bred by Rancho Corazon, including Quirado, and has enjoyed a friendship with the McElvain family for 20 years, and more recently a business relationship over the past decade riding some of their homebreds. 

While he doesn’t seek out U.S.-bred horses in particular, he’s happy to support them if they’re the right fit. 

“I think it’s wonderful that the breeding programs in the United States continue to grow, and as they grow it will be better for everybody in the sport because we’ll have more options than just always having to go to the same old places in Europe looking for horses,” he said.

Richard doesn’t have any huge items on his career bucket list for now—he’s just going with the flow and appreciating every day with his horses.

“I think at this point in my career, I will just let the road lead where it goes,” he said. “It’s about the joy of the process a bit more, rather than the destination. I have to say, I’m enjoying the ability now of my horses a bit more—their gifts and finding as much joy as I can in their jumping ability and bringing them along. 

“Saturday night was an exceptional night,” he added, “because to bring a horse along from when it’s 4 or 5 years old, and you have all your hopes and your dreams and wishes, and when it actually works out, and your horse comes through for you and does what you dreamed it could do and also does it in such an unbelievable style, it’s the type of joy that is very hard to find, and I just consider any of those opportunities in my life to be the center of my focus. I’m very grateful.”

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