When Taylor St. Jacques and Di Samorano (Samorano x Heartbreaker) finished the Jumper Phase of the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund WIHS Equitation Finals, they were ninth in the standings. With only the top 10 qualifying for the final work-off phase that followed, Jacques narrowly missed out on her chance to be crowned champion.

Thankfully, Taylor made a comeback with a final performance that earned scores of 94.00 and 92.00, propelling her to the top of the leaderboard with a winning 264.125 points. As happy as her team was for the young rider—who also recently was victorious in the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final and the USEF Junior Hunter National Grand Championship – East in August—the spotlight also shone brightly on the 9-year-old KWPN gelding Samo, who ended the night with his first WIHS Equitation Final and victory under his belt.

“I think it’s really awesome for Taylor to win on a horse that she owns,” commented trainer Andre Dignelli. “Samo has been the unsung hero of 2017. He has done all the work, and Charisma has gotten all the glory.”

The horse who had his face in the trophy during the awards ceremony is still fairly inexperienced, though he’s stepped up to the plate and performed at his best when it was needed the most. We caught up with Taylor to get the inside scoop on Samo, from finding the right equitation bit, to the pair’s future derby plans, and his very special relationship with Taylor’s mom, Sandra.

  • Samo really likes apples but hates mints.
  • [Before we got him] he had shown twice; once with Daisy Farish and once with Vivian Yowyan. He was imported from Europe about two weeks before they took him to his first show.
  • The first time I ever saw him I thought, Oh, he’s not a very cute horse. He wasn’t really the favorite at the barn. He went in and did his job but no one [except for trainer Andre Dignelli] really thought that he would turn out to be a really big, fancy horse.
  • He’s like a puppy dog [at home]. He’s super sweet, very in your pocket, and always looking for attention. He nickers at you when you come in the barn and he’s a very loving horse. He’s not crazy or spooky or mean in any [way].
  • He’s a very light horse, so a pelham is almost too much bit for him, even though it’s the look of the equitation. When we first got him, we had to play around with bits to figure out which one would look the part, and [wasn’t] too much bit to stay in his mouth.
  • He’s done all the work all year. He’s qualified me for everything and Charisma only came out for the big classes.
  • Under any pressure, he goes exactly the same as he does at home. He’s very easy to get to the ring, and there’s nothing difficult about him. In the ring, he’s very reliable; he’s a horse that you can really depend on to go in and do his part. He’s never going to put a foot wrong.
  • He really only jumps a couple of days before he goes to a show, and if he has a couple of weeks off, he’ll do gymnastics. Other than that, I’m really big on just flat work.
  • I’m a very big believer in turn out. When he’s with us in Florida, he’s basically outside all day if the weather is appropriate. At Heritage, it’s a little bit harder, because there are a lot more horses, so we try to [give him turnout] at least two to three hours a day. Then he gets ridden, hand-walked, and hand-grazed, so that he’s out of his stall as much as possible.
  • He’s a family horse. He’s not just a horse that you bring out to show.
  • He’s my mom’s baby and I think she likes him more than she likes me sometimes. He’s a very gentle horse and my mom really fell in love with him. He can be a little bit shy at first, so it takes a minute for him to warm up to people, but he and my mom really clicked from when we first got him. She thinks he’s the most gorgeous horse in the world. She spoils him a lot and when I come out of the ring, he looks for her at the in-gate. He knows her voice and she has a really good bond with him. In Florida, she grooms him 24/7. If I’m not there in the morning, or if I can’t make it to the barn, she does all the work with him. She’ll ride him, do the groundwork, and lunge him. She doesn’t ride that often anymore, so when she wants to hop on, he’s the horse that she goes and has fun on. She likes to pretend that she’s better than me, and anytime she rides him and he does well that weekend [with me], she says that she was the one who prepared him.
  • I think Samo is finished for the year. After the Maclay, my horses will go down to Florida and get a bit of a break.
  • Starting next year, come time for the Wellington circuit, [Samo] is going to be an A/O Hunter and my plan is to do him in the derbies.

-Photography by Tori Repole.