The Rolling Stones famously sang, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you’ll find you get what you need.”
Such was the case for Jim Ifko.
The Canadian show jumper was looking for broodmares in France when he stumbled upon a six-year old stallion named Un Diamant des Forets. He didn’t find a single mare on that trip, but he did come home with the horse that would define his international career.
“He was literally a horse that we looked at on the way to the airport. So it was a last minute thing. But as soon as I rode him, I knew—I wasn’t 100% sure how far along height wise he would go—but I knew that he was going to be a competitive horse along the way. And as it turns out, it’s exactly the way I was thinking.”
That was nine years ago.
The now 15-year-old stallion has been a consistent contender with Ifko since the pair made their international debut in 2017, earning podium finishes year over year—and across all heights. The pair sports 38% top 10 finish averages at both 1.45m and 1.60m and a 41% top 10 finish average at 1.50m, according to Jumpr App. Since 2017 they’ve earned €382,407 in prize money and 29 podium finishes.
On Thursday at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC, they added one more to that ever growing list. Ifko and “Monty” topped an eight-horse jump off in the Joey Rycroft designed CSI3* tbird Qualifier 1.45m. Ifko’s strategy: solve for Saturday.
“Honestly, my strategy started actually before the show began. Our plan was to just do the qualifier and then the Grand Prix, and I was hoping that we’d have just a comfortable round,” said the Calgary-based rider.
“Of course, you always want to get in the jump off. And then in the jump off, I actually just wanted to have a nice smooth—let’s call it ‘relaxing,’ if you will—round, because I know my horse is fast anyway, but if I try and go too fast then he’s gone [and] we’ve lost everything over the last class.”
The pair executed the inside options to stop the clock in 39.64 seconds. They were the only combination to cross the timers under the 40s mark.
“I tried to just be smooth and as relaxed as possible and just keep a lid on things, and he was really rideable. So all the short turns worked out really well. And, the plan actually just kind of worked out.”
“Relaxed” is not a term that immediately jumps to mind watching the hot-blooded stallion in the ring. But Ifko says the bay Selle Francais has learned to conserve his energy outside of it.
“I think the fact that he is so fresh is sort of funny because as he gets older, certainly in the last two or three years, he’s mellowed out extremely at home. He is just like a school horse to ride. When I hacked him this morning before the class, I could hardly make him canter. And then when the competition comes around, he just knows that that’s the time to get pumped up. It’s funny, he just seems to rise to the occasion.”
Un Diamant des Forets will next compete in Saturday’s CSI3* Grand Prix. After he takes a nap, that is.
Catch all the action from the CSI3* BCHJA Fall Finale on tbird TV.