Katherine Bateson-Chandler & Alcazar, Hopes for USA’s Future Teams
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
Alcazar, ridden by Katherine Bateson-Chandler, fits into the training program created by Carl Hester that produced two of the three horses that won Great Britain’s historic team as well as individual gold medals at the Olympic Games in London this summer.
Carl is training Katherine and the seven-year-old KWPN gelding out of Contango, the same sire as Ravel competed by Steffen Peters as America’s top performing partnership for the past four years, not for Britain but for what she hopes will develop to win a place on a team with the United States flag on the saddle pad.
“He has read the manual,” Carl jokes about Alcazar (Contango x Polina x Ferro) while Katherine, 36, rides in training at his farm in Newent, Gloucestershire, about two hours north of London. “He’s the professor.”
So, too, is Katherine, at home in England as she was born in Britain but became an American citizen almost a decade ago and is based in Wellington, Florida.
She has ridden for Jane Forbes Clark, the owner of Alcazar, for six years, taking over from Robert Dover for whom she was an assistant trainer for several years.
“She’s so easy to help,” Carl said as Katherine and her husband, also named Carl, tacked up Alcazar. “We have very similar thoughts about training.
“Alcazar has beautiful hind legs and a great work ethic. We need to keep a lid on it and produce it slowly.”
Like he did with the horses he found as youngsters, trained and remained part ownee–the stallion Uthopia and the gelding Valegro ridden by Charlotte Dujardin, that made up two-thirds of the team that won gold, Britain’s first dressage medal of any color in 100 years of Olympic horse sports. Valegro also won the individual gold, the first double gold since Germany’s Isabell Werth and Gigolo at Atlanta in 1996.
And, yes, Alcazar has floppy ears and an unruly mane common to some Contango offspring, including Ravel and Cadenza, bred, owned and trained to Grand Prix by Ilse Schwarz, wife of this correspondent.
Alcazar was the name chosen by Jane Forbes Clark instead of Alonzo that the horse came with after a record of competing in both the four and five-year-old divisions of the Netherlands’ Pavo Cup and the World Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany, as a six-year-old.
Jane is president of the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation and has a lifelong involvement in horse sports at the highest levels around the world–with horses competing on American teams in dressage, jumping and four-in-hand driving at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.
Since becoming the fulltime trainer and rider of Jane’s dressage horses, Katherine has competed her horses on both sides of the Atlantic. She consolidated her reputation when Jane bought the Dutch horse Nartan in early 2010 with whom Katherine developed a partnership in just months to win a place on the American team for the WEG that secured a berth for the United States at the 2012 London Games.
Alcazar’s young horse competition career started under Christa Hogendoorn who qualified the dark bay gelding for the 2009 Pavo Cup Finals as a four-year old but only finished 49th. A year later, Jonna Schelstraete became the new owner and rider and she competed the gelding in the 2010 Pavo Cup for five year olds, finishing 15th in the semi finals and 12th in the finals.
At the 2011 World Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany, the pair finished 12th in the six-year-old consolation finals.
Jane bought the horse earlier this year, a commitment that Katherina shakes her head almost in disbelief that she is “so lucky to have such an amzaing owner.”
“I know how lucky I am and thank her every day,” she said. “My goal is to have the success she deserves for what she loves to do.”
While getting to know the new guy in the stables, Katherine qualified Nartan for the U.S. Olympic selection trials in June but the decision was made to retire the horse .
Shortly after, she and Alcazar moved to Carl’s farm in England where Katherine had previously spent summers in training.
“It’s very hard to find horses, especially good ones,” Katherine said, echoing a refrain that is common throughout the top levels of the sport these days.
“The level is so much higher today than it ever has been. You can find 70 per cent horses, but they are not good enough for the top levels any more. You need 80 per cent horses, and that means you have to start with them when they are younger and grow with them.”
The three months working with Carl has seen a world of difference in Alcazar’s development. The program of four days of arena work, a day of hacking in the English countryside and two days off so as not to push the horse too fast works for Alcazar.
“In three months you start to really know each other,” she said. “He didn’t have tons of training so he got to be my horse faster. It’s been wonderful to have daily training with someone as great as Carl.”
Alcazar is very self confident, a real extrovert, who doesn’t hold anything in.
He has exraordinary hind legs that move very efficiently and that make everything for him a lot easier.
“It’s unusual for me,” Katherine confided. “I’ve always been attracted to horses more introverted.
“He has the perfect temperament for a competition horse, very brave, self confident. He has presence and is extremely trainable.
“It’s very exciting for the future.”
The future means that the combination will learn all the elements of the Grand Prix but “we don’t want to rush him” and will not compete at the top levels until he’s ready.
The small tour of Prix St. Georges/Intermediaire at national shows is penciled in for later this year when Katherine and Alcazar return to Florida. International level competitions will wait until Alcazar is eight years old in 2013.
Katherine won’t speculate beyond next winter.
“You don’t get these sort of horses every day,” she said, “maybe once in a lifetime,