A few apples a day keep the horse’s teeth away as pair’s friendship grows
Equestrian athlete placates her ‘cranky, vicious horse’ with fruit to forge a happier, more successful partnership.
When equestrian rider Madi Sinderberry (AUS) first laid eyes on the horse she would ride in jumping events at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, it was not quite love at first sight. “All the riders were lined up and all the horses were lined up, then someone picked out a horse’s name and a rider’s name, and that was it,” Sinderberry said, explaining how all 30 riders were assigned a local horse after arriving in Buenos Aires. My name was called out and I walked up to him. I did think he was rather large. I was kind of hoping for a smaller horse, but that all seemed fine.”
Sinderberry’s horse, a striking 13-year-old bay gelding named Zambo, similarly did not seem to take much of a shine to the 1.63m, 17-year-old Aussie who was to be his close companion for the week.
“He’s a particularly cranky horse,” she said. “Whenever we would walk into his stable to try and pat him, he would put his ears back and come at you and try to bite you. He’s quite vicious.”
The relationship between horse and rider is vital in jumping. Both must have faith in the other’s ability when taking on the high fences which confront them on course. If the pair do not work as one, there is a risk of a poor result or, far worse, serious injury.
With just three sessions with the horse before competition commenced, Sinderberry put her mind to solving how she could win over Zambo. And she soon came up with a plan: apples.
“Yes, apples,” she said with a smile. “I don’t think I should tell you but I take apples from the (Youth Olympic) Village (food hall) and feed them to him every time I come to the stable. Now rather than going for me he just has this look when he sees me like he’s thinking, ‘Oh, good, apples.’”
The apple diet appears to be working wonders for Zambo. Sinderberry was one of 13 athletes to go clear in the first round of the individual event on Friday (12 October), with the final round for medals to be held on Saturday. Sinderberry and Zambo were also perfect across two rounds in the international team event held earlier in the Games, but missed out on a medal.
Because Sinderberry often has to travel great distances from her home in rural New South Wales for elite competition, she has some experience in riding borrowed horses at major events. She said representing Australia in Buenos Aires is the highlight of her equestrian career.
“It’s a dream come true and I am really, really happy to be here competing,” she said.