ISSUE 70
SEP 2021

PARAS WIN HEARTS
AT TOKYO
KEVIN McNAB & DON
STRIKE SILVER
OLYMPIC BLOODLINES
WITH HEATH RYAN

PLUS: LUCINDA GREEN, AMY GRAHAM, EMMA WEINERT O’ROURKE, DIAMOND B’S SECRETS, THOROUGHBRED REHAB, WALERS TO THE RESCUE, SET GOALS WITH KERRY MACK, THE BLACK STALLION, BUILDING AN ARENA, FEEDING & FOALING

AUSTRALIA`S BEST EQUINE MAGAZINE
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ISSUE 70

CONTENTS

SEP 2021
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A few Words

FROM THE CHAIRMAN

ROBERT MCKAY

Opinion

BREEDING FOR BRISBANE: WHAT TOKYO TAUGHT US

RYAN'S RAVE BY HEATH RYAN

Para Equestrian

PARA EQUESTRIAN FAB FOUR WIN HEARTS AT TOKYO

BY ADELE SEVERS

Dressage

EMMA BRINGS IT ALL BACK HOME

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Off the Track

A THOROUGH BELIEF IN THOROUGHBREDS

BY AMANDA YOUNG

Showjumping

AUSSIE AMY GRAHAM’S JUMPING LIFE IN EUROPE

BY BERNARD BALE

Training

SO YOU WANT TO GO TO THE GAMES?

BY DR KERRY MACK

Health

HOLD YOUR HORSES: FEEDING FOR COOLNESS

BY ELLIE JOLLEY

Lifestyle

THE MAGIC OF THE BLACK STALLION

BY SUZY JARRATT

Property

DESIGN BY VISION

BY ADELE SEVERS

Eventing

KEVIN McNAB’S SILVER DEBUT

BY ELLI BIRCH

Lifestyle

THE HORSE AS THE HEALER

BY ELLIE JOLLEY

Showjumping

HOW DIAMOND B PRODUCES ITS GEMS

BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE

Health

SEPSIS IN FOALS

BY DR MAXINE BRAIN

Eventing

LUCINDA GREEN’S JOINT VENTURE

BY ADELE SEVERS
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Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam at home in Surrey with their silver medal from Tokyo. © Elli Birch_Boots & Hooves Photography.
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Australian. Eventer. Trainer. Husband. Father and Olympian — just a few of the titles that Kevin McNab wears with distinction and pride.

I visited Kevin and Emma McNab’s lovely yard located in the village of Compton, Surrey, about 6km south-west of Guildford in June 2021. At the time, Kevin and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam (Don) were on the Olympic shortlist. Kevin had in fact been in the pleasant position in 2020 of qualifying four horses for the Olympics before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Then that year became one where we were all placed on hold to a certain degree, although Kevin continued to work with all of his horses at home, keeping them ticking over until the British eventing season resumed towards the end of the northern summer.

In 2019, Kevin and Scuderia 1918 had struck up a partnership. Initially an introduction by Francesca Pollara led to an opportunity to work with the Scuderia group producing horses for sale. Having had a couple of early successes, Kevin went on to have as many as 13 Scuderia horses in production at one time. Their relationship blossomed and as the sporting side of Scuderia’s business evolved, Kevin became a key part of their team, which includes some of horse sport’s elite riders; showjumpers Lorenzo de Luca, Daniel Deusser and eventer Michael Jung, to name just three.

Scuderia currently have seven horses with Kevin and Emma, ranging from novice five-year-olds to Don (owned jointly by Scuderia and Emma McNab). Francesa tends to do most of the buying and sends Kevin the horses that she thinks will work best for him. Looking at the current horses that are with Kevin, it is clear that Francesca has a very good eye. Kevin tells me: “Looking for horses is a really big job; she sends them and says, ‘Here’s a horse – work away!’” Apart from Don, Francesca has sourced all of the Scuderia horses for Kevin.

Scuderia 1918’s ethos is a simple one: “Team always wins”. Co-founders Maria and Emanuele Anchisi say: “There is no victory without motivation and no quality without attention to detail. This is the kind of team we try to build every day.” It is clear to all that know Kevin that he fits perfectly into the Scuderia team. Although still a business, Scuderia prides itself on its values and has a respect for both people and animals — unusual in this day and age when so many equine businesses are profit driven, and horses are viewed as a commodity. Kevin is a great believer in “team” too. There are so many people that help him on a day-to-day basis, not just the grooms but owners, trainers, farriers, vets, sponsors, feed merchants and so on.

Kevin feels that his partnership with Scuderia gives him the best of both worlds; he can produce young horses for sale in a timely manner, as well as having horses that he can take to championships. Scuderia support Kevin and let him pick the events that he thinks will most benefit each individual horse. This year, for example, they supported Kevin and Don to go to CCI5* in Kentucky — a huge commitment. It was the first time Kevin had competed there and he tells me with a wry smile: “I was really happy with the horse — sixth is great but first is better!” Kevin continues: “Don is a horse that can win a competition like that and somewhere in the not too distant future he will put in a really big performance to win a competition of that calibre.”

“When (Don) is in a good mood
he is really fun.”

FAMILY MATTERS

Kevin’s wife, Emma, has been quite busy in the last couple of years having given birth to their two daughters. Annabelle was born in August 2019 and Charli arrived in June 2021. Emma competed up to October 2020, and her last championship ride was with Fernhill Tabasco at the 2018 Word Equestrian Games in Tryon, where they were part of the Australian eventing team and secured the team’s Tokyo Olympic qualification. Emma tells me that they had always planned on having their children close together. After Annabelle was born, Emma rode and competed at a few events in 2019-20 in order to keep her hand in. Now that Charli has arrived, Emma is back in the game and has her sights firmly set on Paris!

 Kevin and Emma have been based in the UK since February 2012 and moved to Coneycroft Farm, Compton, in the autumn of 2013. They plan to return to Australia once they have ticked a few boxes, competition-wise. Both of their families are in Australia and they feel it is important that their two daughters grow up around family. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions that have resulted, their parents have been unable to visit as they would have done in normal circumstances. Kevin’s niece Rachael currently lives with them; she is a lifesaver with the girls and it is clear to see that Annabelle adores her.

Emma is keen to get back in the saddle again, although she explains that when she resumed riding after Annabelle’s arrival she did notice a real difference in her fitness and balance. She feels that it will take time before she can just jump on anything and go. Kevin explains, “Em has always been trained in what she does and there’s not much that is hit and miss with her. She is always really diligent in making sure that everything is correct and was never reckless anyway! Things may be a little different for me as I probably was (reckless) and I am not now!”

Back in June we discussed what Japan would be like as the Olympic hosts. The general consensus was that it would be very organised and things would be straightforward; as a nation the Japanese have a reputation for being organised and efficient. Although having no crowds and a rather flat atmosphere, Kevin said: “It will be nice to be on the team, and if it does happen and I do end up going then I hope that when I come home I can say ‘it was a shame that there were not many people there, but it all ran smoothly’.”

We also talked about the Australian eventers that have been shortlisted: “Most of the Aussies have good cross country horses and are good cross country riders,” he says. I asked Kevin what his favourite phase is, to which he says, “My favourite phase is what my horse is best at: in general!” Emma asks Kevin what his favourite phase is with Don: “I really like him on the flat, when he is in a good mood he is really fun, but he is actually fun in all phases and I don’t think he has a weak phase.” Kevin went on to tell me that he enjoys the technical challenges that test horse and rider in modern eventing and likes the way that sport is developing: “I like to know how everything works, know the numbers of strides and how it affects other things. For me, the more technical it becomes, the more I enjoy it.”

“I don’t think
he has a weak phase.”

IS DON, IS TOUGH

Leading up to Tokyo, Kevin found little things that worked better for Don and, some that didn’t; as a consequence, he made small changes to Don’s regimen. For example, Kevin did not run Don cross country at Bicton as he does not run so well going from a fast run to a fast run – which is what happened at Pau after they had a fast run at Burnham Market beforehand. Kevin gave Don a couple of slow runs leading into Kentucky and Don ran much better. He does not do quite as much dressage in the lead up to the Games but keeps him busy, including hacking out and letting him enjoy some field time. “Don is a really tough horse and I think he will cope with the climate. Kentucky was really Don’s trial run and he coped really well with the travelling and the competition,” Emma chips in.

Kevin has trained a couple of eventing stalwarts, including New Zealander Jock Paget and Australian Christopher Burton. Kevin tells me: “My success has been that my students have done more than me.” However, Kevin is now at the point where he is superseding his students!

Kevin trains with Denmark’s Sune Hansen for dressage and since 2017 he has also trained with Brazilian showjumping legend Nelson Pessoa, which Kevin said is a “real privilege”. As well as sending Nelson videos to critique, Kevin will go to Belgium to train when Nelson is there. I asked Kevin if this was just for the showjumping phase and he says: “jumping is jumping, whether it’s cross country or show jumping and Nelson’s input has been very positive.”

Initially Kevin and Don were the non-travelling reserves for Tokyo, which soon changed to travelling reserves when two-time Olympian Christopher Burton’s and Clair Poole’s Quality Purdey had to withdraw after the vet check prior to travelling. On the eve of the dressage it was decided that Kevin and Don would run instead of Stuart Tinney and Leporis. Despite a slightly disappointing dressage score of 32.10, Olympic debutants Kevin and Don jumped super clears in both the cross country and the show jumping, incurring just 2.8 time penalties in the cross country. The rest is history… team silver on their Olympic debut. Fantastic!

SURPRISE PARTY

Upon his return from Tokyo, a surprise Olympic party was held for Kevin at Coneycroft Farm, kindly hosted by Mark and Belinda Sartori in their lovely home. Fellow Aussie eventer Isabel English (based with Kevin and Emma) had organised all the guests and made a video of many heartfelt messages from around the globe from those not able to celebrate in person. It has been tough for Kevin’s friends and family in Australia who had to support and celebrate from afar. As well as celebrating with Kevin, a few of us went to see Don in the field; he took a brief break from snoozing and obligingly pricked his ears for a few photos.

In June we had discussed the thought of Australia bringing home a medal. Kevin told me: “The British are amazing at the moment, they could send three teams! Maybe if the English, French and Germans have little hiccups we could sail through.” Never mind any “little hiccups” from other teams, the Australians were all on fine form in Tokyo and really did deserve to take team silver. Individually, Kevin was 14th, Shane Rose 10th and Andrew Hoy was on the podium to collect individual bronze.

I ask Kevin about how he felt initially when he was the non-travelling reserve. He says: “Basically, what I had done was not good enough to get on the team; being driven and aiming for Olympic selection means you will of course be disappointed if not selected. Having got over the initial disappointment, I was of course happy to play my part in case the travelling reserve could not go. Then everything changed again and I was travelling reserve, so Don and I settled into that role. I feel that the most anxious time for me was when we were waiting to be selected, as we had had some good performances and were in good shape.”

“I was very focused on doing
my job for the team.”

SILVER LINING

Initially in Tokyo, Kevin was thinking that he may only be needed for the show jumping and explained that when in a team meeting two days before the dressage, when asked how he was feeling, he answered, “very relaxed, the boys have got it all together and I am ready for the show jumping if need be!” On the eve of the dressage, Kevin was walking the cross country course when Stuart Tinney broke the news to him that Kevin was “in” (Stuart Tinney and his horse Leporis were stood down as a result of veterinary advice). During the team meeting on that day, Kevin was again asked how he was feeling, to which he responded: “A lot less relaxed than I was yesterday!”

Dressage day dawned, and Kevin and Don gained a score of 32.1; Kevin was disappointed in the way that he rode and felt that he did not do Don justice, however, even if he had got a better score it would not have made any difference to the result. Kevin tells me that he got over it fairly quickly once they had won the silver medal!

Cross country was a great day for the Aussie eventers; Kevin and Don completed a fantastic round only slightly over the time, to add 2.8 in time penalties to their dressage score. Kevin and Don were first to go in the showjumping phase for the Australians, achieving another super clear that kept the team in a strong position. Shane Rose and Virgil had just one fence down in the show jumping and the silver medal was secured when Andrew Hoy and Vassily jumped a foot-perfect clear round.

Kevin feels that starting out as reserve and then being part of the silver medal team made it even more of an amazing experience. “I was very focused on doing my job for the team,” he says. “I didn’t have a clear in the dressage and I wanted one cross country, so I had to jump clear. At the second water I took an option, not because Don would have had a problem with the straight route, but I wanted to set him up for what was coming later on in the course. There was an oxer turning right to the frangible pin, which did cause 11 penalties for a few people, and I didn’t want to incur penalties there myself. I felt that having jumped the option before I arrived at that question would work better for us. It was more planning ahead to make sure my whole round went smoothly, not just that particular fence; it seemed to work and I had a really nice round.”

I asked Kevin about the importance of the role that the reserve plays: “Having Stuart there to walk the course with and bounce ideas off was really helpful to me. He has a wealth of experience and has been on championship teams before and is a rider that I have always looked up to and admired, so having him there was very helpful to me. I would have been there for him if it had been different, although I don’t think he would have needed me as much!” Kevin continues that even if he had not made the team he would have benefited hugely from being the reserve and it would have prepared him well for any future championships.

CHANGED FORMAT

We discussed the new format of Olympic eventing and Kevin admitted that he is not a fan: “It has the potential to push riders to do things that they maybe wouldn’t normally do. It depends on the person, but I think in some instances it is not in the best interest of the horse’s welfare if you don’t have a drop score. From my point of view it was easy and my horse was very fit and we prepared really well. I was not in a position where I had to make that choice. It must be hard to have to make the decision if your horse is fatigued and decide that ‘today is not our day’ and pull up, as essentially you are taking the whole team out of contention. I think you are better off to have a drop score so that you can pull up and know that you are not taking the team out.” Kevin went on to say: “Although they did a great job in putting up a course that if there were nations that were not as strong as the medal winning teams, then they could jump round and take the options. Yes, they may be slow and not be competitive but it did give them a way to come home. In future, if riders were advised well and they took the options which they should take, it will help to keep eventing in the Olympics.”

Kevin and Emma are already thinking ahead to further championships. “I would absolutely love to be on a team with Em,” says Kevin. “That would be amazing. Hopefully we will be in a position where we can both put our hands up for selection at a major championship.” Although not the first husband and wife team to compete at a championship, it would be a fantastic first for the McNabs. EQ

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