Interview: Caroline Malan
Photography: Jacqui S Photography
Tell us about your horses
I’ve been riding for Linda Ellerine from Back on Track and Rogan Asken for three to four years with these specific horses. At the moment, we’ve got Back on Track Quintino 4 who is a 17-year-old Holsteiner and Clouny III who is a 14-year-old Holsteiner. We’ve also got a Dutch mare called Back on Track Habibi S. She’s a six-year-old and is going to start jumping for the first time in the 130s at Maple Ridge at the end of October. We’ve also got Back on Track Sheldon, who is an Indoctro out of a Conti mare, so I’ve got a lovely team of horses with Linda and Rogan.
Tell us about your instructor
I’ve known Rogan for the last 19 years and have been riding with him for 18 of those years. Together with my wife Jeanne, I think Rogan and Greg are probably my biggest supporters. I must also mention that Rogan is more than just my showjumping and riding coach; he is also a mentor for me in riding and life. He gives me a lot of advice in both regards. He is a great mentor for me now, and always has been.
How do you prep for Derby?
Looks can be deceiving with Clouny III. He looks like a big old-fashioned slow type horse, but he isn’t. In fact he’s more quirky than any stallion I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with some hectic stallions! He’s very quirky and very sensitive.
He’s quite naturally fit so we do a little bit of wind fitness on the track at Rachel Slack’s at Witpoort, but he can naturally go around there six times without blinking an eye so we really don’t have to do too much of that.
In terms of specific Derby training, we only train once at 1m20. He knows the job so well, so we are sparing with that. We are careful not to overdo it.
On the day I think it is quite important to have a horse in one of the lower grades before the big class. Therefore, to have Quintino 4 in the mini-Derby on Sunday, where he ended up fourth, was quite a nice ice-breaker for me. Even though he is a little bit more blood than Clouny, they are sort of similar rides in a way. I think having a really good clear with Quintino in the first round instilled a bit of confidence. Unfortunately, I had the last pole down in the jump-off and ended up fourth but, yes, it certainly worked in my favour for the big class.
How do you prep in terms of food, habits etc?
Eating-wise, I came home and had an early lunch just for a little bit of energy, so at 12 o’clock I made sure I had a big plate of food, because once you are there and you start you don’t really want to be eating anything. However, I do drink lots and lots and lots of water to help to stay focussed. Generally, with big classes like this, I like to ride with chewing gum, as it makes me concentrate a little bit better.
Tell us about Sunday
I would really like to congratulate KPC on a great Derby. I think Aidan and Anne-Marie did an excellent job, and what a great idea to get a bunch of sponsors together for smaller amounts. The sponsors that I spoke to were all really, really happy. I hope it will be a success next year as well. Only one person can win on the day, and Sunday was my day.
Clouny was feeling a little bit flat during the show but in true style, like he always does at a big show, he jumped his best on the last day. So, as I say, we got lucky and I’m really, really happy and chuffed for Linda and for Rogan. I’m very honoured to ride these horses for Rogan and Linda. They were actually Rogan’s rides and he has decided not to compete in the ring anymore, but he puts a lot more of the work in behind the scenes on the flat than I do. I really believe I have the best team in the country, and with my wife on the side lines supporting me; Rogan and Greg helping at home; and Linda being the best sponsor I feel so fortunate.
Linda is great in that she never puts any pressure on and is just really concerned that horse and rider come out of the ring happy, with no injuries. Anything above that, like a ticket or a win, is really just a bonus. I think we all love this sport, and I think because Linda and Rogan don’t put the pressure on, the results happen in a much easier way.
Do you have any tips for riders looking to ride the Derby track in the future?
From a rider’s perspective, going around the course, I think it is important to take one jump at a time. There is so much space in between, and it helps to keep your thoughts together. You just need to find the best rhythm that you can. This applies for any showjumping, but especially for Derby day. It certainly helps to get a better round.
Who would you like to thank?
First and foremost, I want to thank Jeanne, my wife, for her unwavering support through both the good times and the bad. Just as I watch and help her with her jumping at home, she watches and helps me and I really couldn’t have done any of this without her training and her support.
I would also like to thank Linda Ellerine for everything she does for myself and my family. Her horses are absolutely phenomenal, and I love riding them.
I want to thank Rogan and Greg. Without Rogan, I wouldn’t be where I am today. He always helped me as a youngster to find jobs and rides, and as I said, without him I wouldn’t be here today. Greg is always so helpful, particularly at the big shows. He always helps me walk the big tracks, helps in the warm-up and is so knowledgeable. He also makes sure the horses are kept in top condition at home. He manages them brilliantly and makes sure they get everything they need in advance of the show.
I also want to thank Clouny’s groom, Aaron Gumbo, and Quintino’s groom, big Jo. They care for the horses so well and keep them in top condition.