By Catie Staszak for Shadow Pond Stables
Brooke Kemper develops and sells a most exciting prospect for top sport.
Last summer, international show jumper Brooke Kemper went to Europe with an equine shopping list.
Kemper, who alongside her husband Nigel Potts runs Shadow Pond Stables out of Keswick, VA and Ocala, FL, was scouting for talent—for horses that might match well with her clients or be a promising investment. Of course, finding an extraordinary talent was always on the list, but Kemper was well aware that finding such a horse was not to be expected and only to be hoped.
Then her friend and dealer Ian O’Grady gave her a phone call.
“He sent me a video and asked if I wanted to try the horse. Obviously, I said yes,” Kemper said. “We bought [the horse] at a stable in Belgium.”
The horse in the video was Quix des Dames, a 6-year-old Belgium bred gelding by Cornet Obolensky and out of the Canturo mare Ulota Du Roc. One ride on the grey was all it took to convince Kemper of the horse’s abilities, and this winter, it was the same for Aaron Vale. After six months of development with Kemper and Nigel Potts, Quix des Dames has been purchased by Don Stewart as a high-performance prospect for Vale, a Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Finalist with more than 275 Grand Prix victories to his name.
“He just seems to have unbelievable ability,” Vale said. “He’s so limber, he can kind of twist and bend himself over a fence in amazing ways. Even when you’re working on the flat, you can feel the ability. At the moment, it’s just [about] patience—get him enough mileage and let him have a couple birthdays so we can get to the big ring.”
Kemper and Potts imported Quix des Dames last August with CM Sporthorses, a longtime client that has supported Kemper with horses. In his earliest stateside days, Quix des Dames’ stable rider and groom, Bobbie Jo Adsit dedicated her time to developing his fitness, while Kemper and Potts were on the road coaching their wide array of students.
Quix des Dames jumped his first U.S. classes at the Maryland Horse and Pony show in September; the next month, he and Kemper were winning in the 6-year-old division at the Tryon International Equestrian Center. A notably quick study, Quix des Dames made it apparent that jumping came easily to him. Potts and Kemper worked together to manage him for success and teach him how to maximize his immense skill set.
“We did a lot of flatwork at home,” Potts explained, “just working on his rideability. We did a lot of gymnastics work, trying to teach him how to manage his huge scope and stride. Especially in combinations, [it was about] getting him to utilize his cat-like reflexes.
“It wasn’t complicated,” he added. “The jumps weren’t big for him, so really it was just about keeping him in [the 6-year-old division] and not over-showing him.”
Kemper and Quix des Dames were cruising when fate redirected their partnership. Working with a 4-year-old in December, Kemper injured her back and was temporarily forced out of the saddle. She reached out to Vale, a longtime friend to ask him to show Quix des Dames at the World Equestrian Center – Ocala to get his 7-year-old season started. The pair jumped clear in each of their three starts in January.
“There’s quite a few people in the 7-year-old division, and everybody was just going nuts for the horse,” Vale said. “He was kind of the talk of the show, so we had Don come watch him. The horse was spectacular every time, and a deal fell into place.”
“I want Aaron to be well mounted, and I think this horse has superior quality,” Stewart said. “Seldom do you see a horse that jumps like that and looks like he has that kind of ability. He’s athletic, limber and agile, and it looks like the jumping is easy for him. Aaron really liked him. He’s also electric careful, which everyone is looking for. I’m hoping he becomes a very special, high- class jumper.”
Vale and Quix des Dams’ partnership has gotten off to a flying star, winning the 7-year-old Final at Split Rock Jumping Tour’s Sarasota International in early February. The pair will base out of Ocala through April before mapping out some goals in the young horse divisions the remainder of the year, with bigger targets down the road.
“It’s an incredible feeling to ride the horse, sure, but when I got to watch Aaron go in the ring on [Quix de Dames], it was really special to get to watch him as well,” Kemper said. “I’m going to be a little sad every time I see him go, but I’m excited to see their partnership develop, and I think it will be a great match.”
“Brooke said right away that this was an exceptional jumper with a ton of scope,” Potts said. “With her ability to select horses, she was absolutely right.”
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