With the good looks and stark white coat of a movie star horse, the textbook front end of a top performance hunter, and string of accolades to rival the greatest show jumpers of all time, Martin Fuchs’ (SUI) Clooney 51 is in a class of his own.
Alas, after a career spanning nearly a decade, it’s time to bid adieu to this shooting star, who retired from competition after breaking his shoulder in the field a year ago.
While Clooney 51 will receive all the dignified, formal accolades he is due at his official retirement ceremony at CHI Geneva before the start of the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday, December 11, you know we can’t send him off without a proper farewell.
With that in mind, here are eight things you (maybe?) definitely need to know about Clooney 51.
1. First thing to know about Clooney? He’s won. Like, a lot.
A two-time Olympian in Rio (2016) and Tokyo (2020), Clooney, owned by Luigi Barleri, has been European Champion, Vice World Champion, World Cup Finals runner-up, and winner of the Grand Prix of Geneva, Zurich, Basel, Lyon, and the coveted Rolex Grand Prix in Palexpo, Switzerland.
2. He’s a bit of a hungry hippo.
His former rider Jana Wargers (GER) recalls that Clooney has always had a “fat belly”—something Martin’s father, Olympian Thomas Fuchs, didn’t like the look of the first time they met (he quickly overcame that qualm). While competing with Martin Fuchs, Clooney received limited time on the grass and was stabled on shavings instead of straw due to his tendency to snack.
3. He and Fuchs got off on a bit of a wrong foot, initially.
The first time Fuchs tried the seven-year-old by Cornet Obolensky, the pair went for a hack, and Clooney jumped up in the air and spun his rider off. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the two to get their act together, and within six months, they’d won their first CSI 1* 1.35m class together in Roeser, Luxembourg.
4. He’s a fighter in and out of the ring.
Clooney underwent colic surgery in 2018 and Fuchs said he worried initially that his horse wouldn’t make it. Shortly after he was cleared to return to work, however, the Swiss rider realized Clooney was stronger than ever. Fuchs said he is the toughest horse he’s ever had, and it is this fact that made him believe in the gelding’s ability to overcome his shoulder injury as well.
5. He could shock you with a smile.
Clooney has almost no front teeth, a genetic anomaly that his groom Sean Vaard said is common among Cornet Obolensky offspring. “I keep telling people that he ran into a fence as a foal. But I think he was born with no front teeth,” said Vaard. “I’ve seen quite a few [Cornet Obolensky] horses, maybe not as extreme as Clooney, but they have like little deformed teeth and they just never really came through.”
The gap in Clooney’s smile didn’t prevent him from jumping to a sixth place finish in the 2013 FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Jumping Championships for Young Horses. (And clearly, it hasn’t impacted his ability to eat!)
6. He’s very expressive in the barn.
Clooney loves people and other horses, but doesn’t like when his groom/BFF Vaard or rider/BFF Fuchs spend too much time with other horses. Like many horses, he also prefers to be left alone when he’s in his stall—hence this face:
7. Even Clooney has made a mistake (or two).
During the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen in 2016, Fuchs and Clooney were on their way to a victory, until the stewards opened one of the arena gates, causing Clooney to run-out of the last fence. Fuchs said he was taken aback since it was so out of character for the gelding, and spent a long time working on dressage and analyzing why the refusal had occurred. Shortly thereafter, they were back on their A-game, however, winning a class and placing in the top-10 at the CSI5* Longines Masters of Hong Kong just a few months later.
8. His mentality is what sets him apart.
According to Fuchs, he’s always known Clooney was a world-class mount, since the very first fence they jumped together. Despite that fact, he said, the gelding acts like a much different horse when he’s just flatting or riding at home. But during a multi-day championship, Clooney actually becomes more alert and careful as the competition goes on, compared to many horses, which often become more careless or tired.
Happy retirement, Clooney!