A Few Words from Sam McIntosh
Cambridge and her little slice of paradise is the last place world class showjumper Samantha McIntosh thought she would be in 2021 . . . but all things considered, she’s quite comfortable thank you.
“Having the chance to move back home again and take over running the equestrian side of Takapoto has been amazing,” says the 45-year-old who headed home from her French base mid-2020 after the Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed. “It has been hugely positive for me and a big learning curve too.”
Sam says life as a top athlete in Europe is equally glamourous as it is hard and lonely. “People certainly underestimate that so I am loving seeing everyone here and just being able to live in my house,” she says. “It is great to be here in New Zealand. Look around . . . life is mostly going on here. For lots of friends in Europe it isn’t like that. They are living in masks, with restrictions on everything and you don’t know what shows can even happen. The top end of the sport has missed a whole year and yet you have horse dealers and owners all still having the same expenses as they run stables, feed horses and get in blacksmiths but actually there is very, very little you are able to get back out of it at the moment.”
It makes the fast-approaching Takapoto Estate Show Jumping Show even more special. “The facilities are a lot more up to the world standard with the footing, the stables, shallow cups and lighter rails . . . it all makes it easier for us to evaluate ourselves against the rest of the world when we can again compete in equal circumstances. You aren’t fooling yourself if you can jump well at Takapoto.”
It is something she feels very strongly about. “You have a bit more of a real idea of what it would be in Europe with similar set-ups at shows in those higher-ranking classes. They are bigger classes, you have to ride faster to tighter time allowed. That puts you under pressure to ride correctly and up the pace. When you get overseas or even to Australia, the pressure comes on to jump clear rounds within time.”
The move home has been a big change for her horses as well. “It is hugely different for them. In Europe they are in stables 22-23 hours a day unless you are somewhere that they have little paddocks. So the horses here get a lot more time outside. It is good for their minds to relax, they can get out and be horses, and not dependent on you 24 hours a day to feed and move them.”
Just being outside in all sorts of weather brings bonuses. “Taking a young horse out in Europe on a windy day can be like riding a roller coaster. Here they are out in the elements a lot more so they are de-sensitised.”
That rolls right through to A&P Shows too where it’s not uncommon to have side shows flying around right next to the arena, or pony rings at full speed next door.
Sam has been making the most of reacquainting herself with the New Zealand countryside, making the trek down to National Championships recently as well as to other shows. “It is always a little exciting to see the improvements that have happened in the five or six years since I was last there and the drives are always breath-taking. They are a reminder of what a beautiful country New Zealand is.”
She’s looking forward to the competition at Takapoto Estate. “The whole aspect of it is so nice – the competition, everyone is in a good mood because it is lovely there. It is a very social show so you tend to be able to sit down and talk to more people over a nice glass of wine.”
It is the second time she has competed at Takapoto. There will be a focus initially on the young horses with the four-year-olds on debut. “Most of them are by Check In 2 which makes it even more rewarding for me. I see a lot of similarities with their dad but also the mares as well, having ridden most of them. Argento and Claire have been our best brood mares to date.”
The big goal is for Takapoto to be known as producers of top horses. “With the horses we are breeding the goal is to be breeding them good enough that we can potentially take some overseas again,” says Sam, “while also producing them for the market in New Zealand. We want people to know we are selling a high quality young horse.”
She is thriving on working with the young horses.
Her top horse Alaid de Chez Nous will contest the Gold Tour. “She has progressed in leaps and bounds in recent months, learning how to jump the bigger tracks. She has all the ability you need for the big stuff but I am not wanting to put any pressure on her. I want to concentrate more on the classes I want her to do well in, and having her on point when I want, to increase her consistency in rideability in those bigger classes.”
She still has half an eye on the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games happening this year. “They do seem to be quite definite about wanting to go on with it – really tough, it is a day-by-day thing that no-one has control over.”
Ever the professional, Sam will make sure she has everything primed and ready to go should the pinnacle event get the green light.