By Victoria Sheehan
Peering over the edge of the stall door, young Angela Pritchard stretched her 4-year-old legs to stretch as far as they could go. With wisps of hay in her hair and the smell of fresh shavings thick in her nostrils, her eyes focused on a Paso Fino mare and her newborn foal.
Sights like these became a staple for Pritchard and the feeling of seeing that first foal at her uncle’s farm all those years ago remains fresh in her mind. It’s where her passion began. “That was the start,” Pritchard tells The Plaid Horse. “I loved being there. I just love mares and foals and I’ve always been interested in breeding.”
Pritchard is now all grown up. She went on to ride, own, and eventually start breeding horses. Over the course of the past decade, she has bred about 20 foals stateside. Five years ago, a little foal came into her life that would prove to be a memorable one.
“We had no idea what we we’re going to get. Both parents are big, the stallion very handsome, the mare, very handsome. And when he was born, he was beautiful,” says Pritchard.
A little bay Dutch Warmblood came into Pritchard’s world. His brown nose came complete with a distinct snip. She was delighted and named him Motueka after a town in her favorite place in the world, New Zealand. They would call him ‘Mo’ for short, and with that, their story began.
An Awkward Start
Because Motueka (UP TO DATE MILTOO x WAMINKA), pronounced MO-TWO-EK-AH, was born from two parents out of the Darco line, Angela had hoped her new foal would inherit their big distinct qualities. And in her own observation, Mo was an adorable little foal early on—his cute almost floppy ears would train forward with a friendly expression and his brown coat and little white snip fit perfectly on his proportioned body.
“Then that changed,” says Pritchard with a laugh.
Mo stayed his friendly self, but he began to grow different parts of his body at different rates. “He looked like a horse put together by committee,” says Pritchard. “He wasn’t very big and then his head was really big and his neck was not, his legs were short. He grew in parts.”
Still, there was just something about him. When Mo was barely a yearling, Pritchard, who was partnering with Jonathon Millar, decided to see what he could do. She put him in the jumping chute and he came alive.
“We put him in the jump chute at two to three years old, just to kind of see. And at that point, he was still horse by committee. But he was so willing and was just like, ‘Oh, I got this.’ He’s so willing to learn and do. I was impressed and we were like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to send this one along” to Millar, says Pritchard.
But before Mo headed off to start his show jumping career, Pritchard sent him to live with a cowboy. Mo went on trail rides, trotted through rivers, and learned what it was like to have a relationship with humans. He stood still for the crossties, felt tack and the weight of a rider for the first time. Then Mo went to Millar. He and Pritchard did perhaps the most important task in any young horses’ life—they waited.
“It gave him a really good base knowledge and gave him the correct start right off the bat,” says Jonathon Millar.
Jonathon Millar has worked with some of Pritchard’s horses before. He savors the experience working with young horses and the patience it requires. When it was time to ride Mo, Millar noticed a few things right from the start.
“He had a beautiful canter and really good natural balance right from the beginning,” says Millar. “For instance, as a four-year-old, I don’t really ask for the lead changes but he just did them automatically. Perfect right from the beginning.”
Millar knew Pritchard had something special. They took time teaching Mo how to use his body, how to open and close his stride, and how to use his natural talent to jump.
“We didn’t campaign him a lot this year. We tried to give him exposure and let him grow up and mature. Now, he’s ready to get going,” says Millar. “He’s got great technique; he’s got lots of scope and power. He just needs ring miles.”
In his 2022 campaign, Motueka and Millar combined for nine wins in 21 starts, winning six consecutive times to finish the year. They went clear more than 15 times.
From the beginning, Pritchard supported a slower start for Mo. With her experience and keen eye for talent, she has always seen something in him. When he was still young, with his body still disproportionate, he was often overlooked by potential buyers who gravitated to Pritchard’s other young horses instead. Mo even was sold once, but was returned because he wasn’t what the buyers were looking for. Through each phase of doubt, Pritchard was steadfast in one belief: for some horses, it takes time for a horse to come into their own.
“It’s kind of been a little bit of a push for me. I always root for the underdog. It’s always been a thing for me that I wanted Mo to go and do. Ugly ducklings do grow into swans,” says Pritchard.
“All we can do is give them the best foundation and the best experience for them now as they’re growing up, as they’re learning and going up through the levels,” says Millar. “They’re all going to knock jumps down and they’re all going to make mistakes but if you enjoy the process, then the process is going to be much more rewarding for everybody at the end. If you take a minute just let them get to where they need to be, and if you can respect that, then in the long run, you’ll be way further ahead.”
Sometimes the best things come when you simply give them a chance. Mo is a product of careful breeding and passionate people who believe in helping horses define their own potential. But it’s crucial to note that the journey for Mo was not easy, and he represents an important aspect of the show jumping sport here in North America.
“As a small breeder, I don’t have 20 young horses to pick from. I have to dump a lot of money into mine to get them, I have to pick and choose. I’ve sold young horses because I had to, in order to keep feeding the other ones. Mo is the second one that I’ve been able to send to a trainer to get going. I have him now in partnership with Millar because Jonathon didn’t want to sell him. Jonathon likes him enough that he wants to keep him and bring him along a little bit and see just how far he’ll go,” says Pritchard.
“I think we need those different avenues of horses coming along,” says Millar. “I think we need to encourage small breeders and support them so that going to Europe isn’t the only answer. We need reasons for people to either buy or develop young horses and we need reasons for breeders to want to do that. There are things we can do collectively to make this process much more enjoyable and get it out there. I would hope that some of these homebred and North American-bred horses do well. That’s going to inspire other people.”
Millar explains that horse shows are helping to support young horse development by showcasing them in specific classes. He hopes Mo will continue to be a great example of what is possible, and perhaps along the way can inspire more people to see what the right type of development can do.
“My end goal for him is to be a Grand Prix horse,” says Pritchard. “How he gets there, if it’s through the six-year-olds, the seven-year-olds or if it’s through the regular opens or whatever, it makes no difference to me. He’ll get there when he gets there and hopefully he’ll get there.”
“All my eggs are in one basket at this particular point in time, so we’re going to take very good care of that basket.”
Motueka at a Glance
- Barn Name: Mo
- Born: 6/22/2017
- Breed: Dutch Warmblood
- Height: 16 h
- Sire: Up to Date Miltoo (Darco – Grandeur)
- Dam: Waminka (Fedor x Naminka)
What’s in a Name?
Mo is named after a town in New Zealand, Pritchard’s favorite place in the world. The town sits near the mouth of the Motueka river on the western shore of Tasman Bay. Less than 10,000 people live there, but it’s known as a vibrant city, boasting artists and cafes that make it memorable and distinct despite its small stature.
*This story was originally published in the December 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!
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