“For such a big, powerhouse horse as he is, to have so much blood is a little rare. Usually you have a big powerhouse but they’re not so fast, yet he is,” said Daniel Coyle (IRL) of his 12-year-old stallion Gisborne VDL.

When searching for horses, riders are typically saddled with a type choice: the loping, scopey ones or the fiery ones with hearts bigger than their strides. Approximately six months ago, Coyle found that rare creature that’s both.

Gisborne is a horse who has it all, including a rider who is an expert at refining the top level talents of developing show jumpers. On Thursday at Thunderbird Show Park (tbird), the pair struck a balance between power and finesse, overtaking a 13 horse jump-off to win the MLSJ CSI5* Qualifier 1.50m. It was their first international win, and their partnership is just getting started.

The pair crossed the timers in a blazing 37.59 seconds, edging out Canadian national champions Ali Ramsay and Bonita VH Keizershof by mere fractions of a second. Kara Chad (CAN) and Quidamo F settled for third in line on the victory lap after logging a respectable time of 38.12.

“From the beginning Gisborne has been a very exciting horse for me. At this point, I don’t know how exciting or what he will end up doing, but everything we have asked him to do so far has been brilliant. We have high hopes for him,” said Coyle.

“It’s just if I can train him to stay up with me. Even today, it wasn’t his best ride or smoothest round, but he’s starting to figure out what going fast at these big fences really means.”

The gravitational center of Coyle’s career is tbird, an auspicious venue where he’s logged several of his most defining wins.

“I always seem to win something here, it’s been a very lucky show for me. When something is lucky, it usually stays lucky for you. I did my first Nations Cup here successfully and I’ve been coming back ever since. I come here with new horses and learn so much about them,” said Coyle.

Gisborne, however, is an outlier when it comes to the Lothlorien Farm string, so Coyle is learning to adapt his usual training arc.

“We have a strong string at the moment, thankfully. It’s not everybody’s way, but we have tried to buy nice young horses and develop them right through. Actually Gisborne is a different scenario for me. It was kind of like catch riding to this point to try and get to know him a little better,” explained Coyle.

“It’s a testament to Ariel [Grange] buying these expensive young horses and taking the time to produce them correctly. That’s why they they stay so good for so long, because we do the process rather than the quick fix.”

All photos ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

Even though Coyle didn’t have the opportunity to tailor train Gisborne through his youngster years for the Lothlorien program, he’s up for the challenge of matching his herculean horse. Even in a simple snaffle.

“He’s an incredibly powerful horse and so much talent and scope. The hardest thing about it is controlling it, even his canter is so powerful. It’s took a long time for me to figure out how to break it down because 70% of the course you’re trying to break the canter, so that you end up on the right stride at the end,” said Coyle.

“For him, that was really, really hard to do because he’s so, so powerful. But when it all comes together and the jumps are at the top of the wings, you want all that power.”

While Coyle is working on rideability through technical courses, he’s determined to do it while maintaining Gisborne’s essence. It is, of course, what makes him special.

“He’s a stallion, so he is always very, very coltish, but never dangerous…and I don’t want to take that away from him. I want that to be part of his going forward rather than take it off him,” said Coyle.

Feature Image: Thunderbird Show Park / Quinn Saunders