We pay tribute to the recently retired European champion…
The equestrian world was left in shock late last summer when Martin Fuchs announced that his star horse Clooney 51 had suffered a career-ending shoulder injury. The stunning grey was in his prime at 15-years-old, and looked certain to add to his 2019 FEI European Championships title, FEI World Equestrian Games medal and a series of other big victories. Fuchs’ updates via social media made it clear just how special this horse is to the Swiss star, and the reaction from fans displays how much he is loved around the world.
What was Clooney’s background?
Clooney 51 was foaled in 2006 in Bernd Richter’s stable in Germany and comes from the Westfalian studbook. His sire is the white stallion Cornet Obolensky and the mare Fräulein vom Moor, and half-siblings from the same sire include Steve Guerdat’s Corbinian and Marcus Ehning’s Cornado RW. With his good breeding and having shown signs of potential as a young horse, Clooney was brought through as a five- and six-year-old by Sandra ter Bahne and switched to German athlete Jana Wargers at seven-years-old. Wargers remembers the gelding having a fat belly! He was also missing some front teeth, which was the result of a fall as a three-year-old. However, Clooney made swift progress and finished sixth in the FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Jumping Championships for Young Horses in 2013. That performance was enough to impress Martin Fuchs, his father, Thomas, and associate Luigi Baleri. Fuchs, then just 21-years-old himself, went to see Clooney and they had an interesting first ride together. “At our first ride, Clooney panicked, jumped up in the air and made me fall down!” Fuchs recalled recently. However, there was enough chemistry there that Clooney was acquired by Baleri with a view to becoming Fuchs’ top horse in the coming years.
What were his major achievements?
Clooney made good progress under Fuchs and the pair won European Team bronze in 2015. The young duo was selected for the Swiss Olympic team in 2016 and finished ninth in the Individual competition in Rio De Janeiro. That same year a major victory at Aachen looked to be theirs before a bizarre incident. As they turned for the last fence, the stewards opened the arena gates, just as they were passing by. Clooney seemed to think he’d finished and Fuchs suffered a rare and unexpected run-out, costing him the win. Fuchs later said: “I still think about it, but not in a bad way, I took it as an experience and tried to bring this experience into something positive for the future of my career and I think that was the right way to handle that situation.” In 2017 they finished fourth at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ finals in Omaha and later that year picked up another European bronze. Another major medal came their way in 2018 when they collected Individual silver at the FEI World Equestrian Games. They followed that up by winning two rounds of the 2018-19 Western European League, and soon after finished second in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final in Gothenburg.
Fuchs and Clooney were building up quite a collection of medals, and soon enough their big gold was achieved at the 2019 FEI European Championships. The Swiss duo had trailed Ben Maher & Explosion throughout the competition, but they improved with each round and put huge pressure on the British pair. They jumped a measured clear round with only one-time fault, putting themselves into the No.1 spot and guaranteeing a silver medal with only Maher & Explosion to go. The pressure proved too much and a knocked pole at the water jump was enough to hand the European title to Fuchs and Clooney. Looking back on how the week of competition has played out, an elated Fuchs said: “I had a fault the first day in the Speed class, it was my mistake. I took a lot of risk and Clooney struggled at the last combination, but he has been great every day, getting better and better over each round which is one of his best qualities. And I was saying before going into the final, if I do my job and do the small things right, Clooney won’t let me down!”
Within weeks they set their place as Jumping’s leading duo with another fine performance to secure another Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ victory in Lyon. 2020 would undoubtedly have been a big year for Fuchs and Clooney. With all eyes on Tokyo, it’s almost certain he wouldn’t have travelled to Las Vegas for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™, although he would have been the favourite if he had headed over the Atlantic. Of course, 2020 proved to be a lost year for sport, but Fuchs and Clooney were among the favourites for the rescheduled Olympic Games the following year.
Fuchs told the FEI about his excitement about Clooney’s form after their arrival in Tokyo and the pair looked in imperious form as they swept around the course in the first round. However, they clipped two rails in the Individual final, ending their hopes of a medal. On August 7, they were part of the Swiss team that finished fifth. Fuchs and Clooney returned to Switzerland possibly disappointed at not winning a medal but more thinking about the opportunities over the rest of 2021 and the FEI World Championships in 2022. Fuchs said: “Clooney jumped beautifully in every round. Some small mistakes, but very happy with his performance and looking forward to the rest of our season.” However, competition would soon be forgotten as within days, this much-loved superhorse was fighting for his life. On August 16, just nine days after his final Olympic round, he slipped in a field at Fuchs’ stable in Wängi and suffered a fractured humerus on his right side. A statement from Fuchs announced that Clooney was at a clinic in Zurich and that their focus was helping Clooney to recover and enjoy a long retirement in the field. Brighter news came soon with Fuchs telling fans that Clooney was eating normally and able to put weight on his right leg thanks to a sling. He took his first steps outside of his stall in September, and Fuchs brightened many people’s days in October with footage of Clooney being welcomed home.
What about his personality?
Clooney was considered a “strong character” in his formative years, and former ride Wargers believes his ascent to the very top is a testament to the skills of Fuchs and his team. Fuchs has described him as supremely intelligent with great stamina. Clooney is known to be “very greedy” with an appetite so fierce that the floor in his box is covered with wood chips rather than straw! Clooney has always been considered something of an individualist, who prefers his own company when out in the meadow. That said, he is said to have a close bond with stablemate Leone Jei.
“Clooney, over the past 8 years you have made such a strong impact on all our lives. You made dreams come true. You made me a better horseperson and rider. “Thank you for everything dear Clooner! We are happy to see you enjoy your life back at home.”
Source and photo FEI