All roads lead to Royal Windsor Horse Show this week (12-15 May) and the legendary British rider John Whitaker is one of the star names lining up for the show’s five-star international jumping classes. We went behind the stable door with his top horse Unick Du Francport to find out from his groom Kerry Finch what “Frank” is like to look after.
EQUINE AMERICA UNICK DU FRANCPORT, 14yo French-bred gelding by Zandor out of Peche Du Heup (Helios De La Cour II)
Rider: John Whitaker
Owners: John and Clare Whitaker
Stable name: Frank
About Unick Du Francport: John acquired the gelding after a friend of his spotted him jumping in France, and he has helped propel his rider back to the top echelons of the sport. They are now enjoying their fourth year together and the pair finished second in the Longines Global Champions Tour grand prix of London, won a CSI3* grand prix in Vilamoura, Portugal, and took third in the World Cup qualifier in London last year, qualifying for the Final in Germany last month.
Groom Kerry Finch says: “He’s super-easy, but super tricky as well – he just likes to do things his way, he doesn’t like to conform and he knows what he wants. If someone tries to put him on the horse-walker at home, he just stops and says, ‘No, I don’t like it, I’m not going!’ But you can usually bribe him with food. He’ll eat anything and he loves a cup of tea.
“He’s simple to look after otherwise, he gets ridden then when it’s nice enough he’ll go out in the field all day, every day. He’s equally laid back at shows and he’s happiest when we’re out hand-grazing – it worked in London when he was second in the grand prix, I had him out for about an hour of grazing before that.
“I do get nervous for certain classes but because he was tricky when we first got him – he wasn’t easy in the ring and didn’t want to conform at all to start with – it’s been so nice to see him slowly progressing with John, and to come alive and start to do his job properly now. He and his little friend Sharid go everywhere together – they pretend they don’t like each other but they do really! Trust is a big issue with him so I try to do everything with him; he’s definitely ‘my’ horse.”
Horse & Hound will be bringing you all the action from Royal Windsor Horse Show this week, both online and in our bumper reports in next week’s issue of the magazine, in the shops on Thursday 19 May.
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Credit: Peter Nixon
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