“I don’t think it’s going to work. I’m so sorry, but I don’t think I can take her to Mexico. I can’t even canter her” is what the Crusaders Tanimara Macari (MEX) told her boyfriend Rupert Winkelmann when he first handed over the reins on IB Chica.
The nine-year-old mare arrived at her stable one week before Macari’s horses were to jet off to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for the sixth leg of the Major League Show Jumping (MLSJ) tour, leaving little opportunity for the 23-year-old rider to make the mare’s acquaintance.
But if Macari’s career in horses tells you anything, it’s that she’s a master at quick adaptations and the art of making it work, even if it takes a little encouragement to do so.
“Take your time,” assured Winklemann.
“Trust her,” advised her trainer Diego Vivero.
Chica quickly proved them both correct in San Miguel, posting a foot perfect performance, with a few freestyling bucks in between.
“She’s a little bit unconventional. She swaps and she kicks. And she’s been clear in every round,” said Macari.
And Macari means to-date. In San Miguel, Chica went clear in every class including the CSI5* Team Competition for the Crusaders. The pair repeated the effort in Monterrey last month. Come Thursday at MLSJ Thermal the stars in the desert sky aligned and Macari and Chica secured the win in the CSI5* 1.40m.
The pair took to the grass field at Desert International Horse Park and crossed the timers in a clean 35 seconds. Eye Candy’s Amy Millar (CAN) and her 12-year-old gelding Christiano followed just 0.3 seconds behind, while Lugano Diamond’s Natalie Dean took third with 11-year-old Kamilla D (35.9 seconds).
“It’s been amazing. I had to trust her and then it worked out. I think she’s just so big and so sure about herself. Like, she’s so big that she makes the jump so small in a way,” said Macari.
Chica may be unconventional, but it’s coupled with a winning instinct, a characteristic she happens to share with her rider. Earlier that same day, Macari also won the CSI2* 1.45m with 10-year-old mare Cordelia GP Z.
Macari’s partnerships with Chica and Cordelia reached a crescendo at the same moment, but her introduction to the latter couldn’t have been more different. Also a new pairing, it was love at first ride four months ago with Cordelia.
“From the first time I sat on her, I thought she was a winner. I tried her when we were in Belgium and she had like a sparkle behind her and she just wanted to go,” said Macari.
“Cordelia is actually very chill…She’s has a little bit of a quirky attitude when she’s at the show, which helps. When she goes in the ring, she wants to win. She wants to go. But she’s very easy going.”
Cordelia isn’t only opposite in disposition but in size. “She’s very small. She’s like a pony,” said Macari.
Macari’s ability to “make it work” with different types is a skill that can be traced back to her start in horses.
Raised in Cancun, Mexico, a six-year-old Macari stumbled into the sport when she tagged along to a friend’s riding lesson, which, naturally, kickstarted the childhood horse obsession we’re all rather familiar with. When she asked her non-equestrian parents for a horse, they used the most important method of discernment.
“My parents knew nothing, obviously. They just saw a pretty horse and thought, okay, this will work,” said Macari. “My first horse was a dancing Spanish horse. It was not a jumping horse.”
The big, round-bellied horse with a flowing mane was named Principe, Spanish for Prince, but it soon became evident he wasn’t in line for Grand Prix stardom after regularly coming up with faults in the cross rails division.
“I had a trainer and we kind of made it work for the first year but then I decided, okay, maybe this is not to be meant jumping horse,” said Macari.
“He was actually a nice horse! He was just lazy because he was so big and he wasn’t meant to be jumping. So I would do pony kicks all the time. He was pretty, though.”
Principe wasn’t designed for top sport, but neither was Cancun, a hot and humid tourist destination where Macari was often the only rider in her division as she moved up to the 1.20m and 1.30m ranks.
Upon graduating high school in Mexico, Macari moved to the “horse mecca” of Germany and groomed for elite German rider Katrin Eckermann.
“I spent a year and a half there and I learned a lot…I think I’ve never met anyone as hardworking as [Katrin]. She’s there at 6 a.m. every morning and is the last one to leave the stable,” said Macari. “She might be the most talented person I know, but talent doesn’t stop her from working hard. So I think that’s the biggest takeaway I get from her.”
It’s a lesson Macari has all the way to the 5* winners circle at Desert International Horse Park. And at just 23-years-old, she’s just getting started.