from Kate Kosnoff*
It seemed like the hunter/jumper business was trapped in a rut not so long ago: jumpers could be chestnut, grey, bay or black as long as they were well bred and well worked out, and hunters had to be big, glossy bays with plenty of chrome. Horses with distinctive colours were hard to come by, and people were so afraid of making a mistake that they whispered about horses with belly spots or high stockings.
Not overnight, but it seems that pintos, roans, and buckskins, among other horses of colour, are becoming increasingly accepted in competitive show rings across the world. I’m not against the emergence of pintos, even if bulky bays will always have a place on the rated circuit.
One such breeding programme that has contributed to the rise of top pinto sport horse racing is the Copabella stud in Arcadia, Australia. Resided throughout Australia and beyond, Copabella is home to the Hargreaves family’s Belgian Warmblood stallion, Visage van de Olmenhoeve, who is now in stud.
“Visage was Australia’s most used breeding stallion for a few years,” recalls Julia Lynch, whose parents own Copabella. He threw 75% of the coloured ball. Copabella Vegas, who has showed up to 1.50m on the Longines Global Champions Tour with Julia, is perhaps one of his most successful coloured progeny.
Despite Vegas’s shown athletic ability, his colouring at the start of his career undoubtedly caused some people to take notice. Julia says, “People didn’t start taking Vegas seriously for a very long time.” “It seems like sometimes people still treat him like he’s not worthy of the respect he deserves. As a 7 and 8-year-old, he was jumping in 5* events. People underestimate how much more he has left in him.
Of course, “colour” prejudice exists on all fronts, and Shaelyn Kelliher and her pinto, Inquisitive, Oldenburg, have encountered it on an equal footing with Julia and Vegas. Shaelyn and ‘Q’ have now moved on to the adult amateur jumper class, but when they competed in the hunting ring, they often found themselves in a struggle for impartial judges. “He would get punished a little more severely for things when he was still in the hunter ring,” she claims. “The bay would be ahead of him in final pinning, for instance, if he and the bay put in equivalent rounds and both possibly had a late lead change.”
Fortunately for non-colored horses, it seems that judges and other industry participants have recently shifted towards a more progressive and accepting attitude. Described as “younger, more progressive judges would pin him solely on his performance in the ring, not caring about his colour,” Shaelyn talks about her interactions with Q in the show ring.
There’s no doubting that pintos are here to stay, whether you’re a defender of history or happy about the rise in “cow ponies” in the show ring. “I believe that pintos are becoming more and more popular among all hunters and jumpers,” Shaelyn states. “It doesn’t matter how the round goes; seeing one in the hunter ring makes my heart sing.”