EN’s Got Talent is Eventing Nation’s newest series. We hear all the time about horses at the top of the sport, but what about the next generation of equine talent? This series introduces the future superstars of the sport, interviewing riders about how they’re tackling training with these youngsters. Have you spotted a spectacular young horse at an event you think should be highlighted in this column? Tip me at email@example.com.
Last week we met Corteo, Elisa Wallace’s newest upper-level prospect, owned by Rosemarie Spillane. As I’ve previously stated, this horse has an incredible jump. It’s so much fun to watch him go in this video from Poplar Place, and I personally can’t wait to see him in person. That stadium round was telling for Elisa, as it showed her that Corteo has that “it” factor she loves to see. “In the stadium round from Poplar, an orangutan came out a little when I was trying to woah down the lines and steer,” Elisa said. “There was a bending line in six strides to a two-stride combination. I thought, ‘Well, I can’t really add coming to that oxer, so we’re going to take the flyer to the combination.’ When it comes to the makings of a good event horse, I’ve found if you don’t get in right, they can shuffle and get out of the way with that fifth leg. That’s when I realized that he has the potential to go really far.”
While Elisa is working on making Corteo more adjustable in his stride, she’s thrilled that he seems to genuinely love his job. “He loves everything on cross country,” Elisa said. “He’s great over ditches and loves to drop into water. The first time he dropped into water he did it like a pro. We’ve popped over some training-level questions and half coffins; he didn’t care. My biggest issue is reeling in the stride a little and doing my homework of grid work. You can’t always take that Superman jump.” But Elisa knows that Superman jump will only play to Corteo’s advantage as he progresses through the levels. “He’s a baby, so I just need to take the time to help him learn,” Elisa said. “It’s getting to where these days you have to have the dressage horse, the cross-country horse and the stadium horse. I think he’s one that can put all three together.”
While reining in the Superman jump has been challenging, flatwork has presented an even greater training question for Elisa. “With babies, you have some that are above the bit and some that hide; he hides,” Elisa said. “Sometimes it feels like I’m riding an eight-legged orangutan on a headless horse with tons of suspension. It feels like his legs are going every which way and I can’t steer. So I’m really focusing on our flatwork and getting him to come into my hand.” Corteo still had his wolf teeth when Elisa brought him home, which only compounded his hiding problem. “He became very defensive against the bit,” Elisa said. “The dressage judges nail me because he gets behind the vertical. It’s so much easier to bring their head down than to have one who doesn’t want to connect once they’ve learned to disappear behind the vertical.”
Elisa plans to spend a lot of time with her dressage trainer, Karen McGolderick, over the winter to work through Corteo’s issues on the flat. “His dressage scores are OK,” Elisa said. “He’s in the low 30s right now, but he has all the ingredients for putting in top scores and being competitive in all three phases. That’s what is so exciting. You don’t come across many youngsters like him.” Despite his orangutan tendencies, Elisa loves Corteo’s heart and good brain. “You can hop on him bareback and ride him to the barn,” Elisa said. “He’s great at horse shows. He doesn’t act like a baby who hasn’t been anywhere. He doesn’t get too worried; if he does he’ll just stick his head up in the air and come back down. He takes things in stride.”
Since Corteo is still so young, Elisa plans to bring him along slowly and let him mature properly. “I’ll do the rest of fall in novice, and probably the spring too,” Elisa said. “Then I’ll move him up to training next fall when he’s 6. I have to stay patient and make sure I don’t get greedy or eager. I want him to last and hopefully go to Rolex and beyond. In novice it felt like I was riding around an Advanced course. Riding him is hard work trying to stay on, and once I’m done with my ride it feels like I just went to the gym for a work out.” It’s clear Corteo is an up-and-coming superstar, and Elisa indicated that a syndicate is likely in Corteo’s future. “The owner is interested in putting together a syndicate for the horse,” Elisa said. “Syndicates are fantastic ideas that really benefit horses, owners and riders; it just helps give them some relief and support.”
Next week on EN’s Got Talent: Jennifer Wooten’s upper-level horse The Good Witch retired from international competition earlier this year, but Jennifer’s future is looking bright thanks to her newest prospect. Anika, a lovely grey Holsteiner mare owned by Jennifer, won the 4-year-old USEA Young Event Horse West Coast Championships at the Twin Rivers Fall Horse Trials last month. We’ll get to know Anika and find out why Jennifer believes this mare has what it takes to make it to the top. Many thanks to EN reader Char Eurick for the tip!