“My horse is still really happy in the show ring and he tries harder and harder all the time.”
When former Olympic show-jumping rider Beth Underhill first started to ride Monopoly in 1990, he was a horse with an unfortunate reputation. He would stall in front of jumps, particularly water jumps. Monopoly was a New Zealand-bred Hannoverian-thoroughbred cross, and 11 years old when he and Ms. Underhill first got together. But she managed to turn the less-than-confident horse into a steed that earned Canada team and individual silver medals at the 1991 Pan American Games and eventually $1-million in career earnings.
“All horses have different characters,” Ms. Underhill said. Monopoly preferred self-preservation over glory, avoiding difficult gates rather than risk injury.
Ms. Underhill got him to become one of the top horses in the world by making sure she was accurate in how she approached the hurdles with him. “If the distance [to the fence] wasn’t ideal, he wasn’t going to be one to throw his heart and soul over the jumps,” she realized. So she worked at gaining his trust. In fact, she was the only person who rode Monopoly, a horse that didn’t like change. Time and repetitive training over all sorts of fences worked wonders. The final clincher: She and the horse developed a special bond. The more Ms. Underhill gained his trust, the more he gave her.
“We obviously fit together – most of the time,” she said. “The last two years of his career, he was extremely consistent and very comfortable about jumping water obstacles.”