Two things are immediately clear to anyone who’s been following Grand Prix show jumper Callan Solem’s career this year: she wears her heart on her sleeve, and she really, really loves her horse. It’s easy to understand why.
While most international show jumping partnerships are relatively short-lived, Solem and her 13-year-old KWPN gelding, VDL Wizard, have been together for more than six years, since she first picked him out as a seven-year-old at VDL Stud in the Netherlands. But if their road together has been long, it hasn’t always been smooth. Just days after leaving quarantine after he was imported, “Wizard” colicked severely and needed surgery—the first of a few health-related setbacks that plagued his adolescence.
Thankfully, he recovered well, and in the years that followed, Solem and her partners, the McNeil family, continued to believe in Wizard’s potential. During his 11-year-old year, that dedication started to pay dividends, and Solem and Wizard began placing regularly in competitive East Coast Grand Prix classes. More strong showings in 2015 and early 2016—including a seventh place finish as the leading lady rider at the 2016 Longines World Cup Finals in March—earned Solem and Wizard a place on the Rio 2016 Olympic shortlist. Though they were not ultimately selected for the team, Wizard has bounced back from his busy summer in Europe, and the duo is already looking ahead to their year to come.
We caught up with Solem at the 2016 Hampton Classic to see what’s next for the pair, how they stay fit between circuits, and how Wizard likes to keep things exciting—especially during leisurely “hacks” in his field back home in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania.