Best known for his association with such outstanding horses as Hello Sanctos, Ursula XII, and Hello Forever—plus a string of talented youngsters —the #19-ranked rider in the world, Scott Brash, knows a thing or two about sourcing and producing a top-class horse.

Here, the British showjumper explains what attributes he’s looking for…and ponders whether he’ll ever find another “Sanctos”.

 “I could, and have, looked past a horse refusing at a fence during a trial.”

1. I do have a ‘type.’

Without really thinking about it, I guess I do have a type of horse I’m more drawn to. I’m more attracted to the blood, modern-day type of horse, rather than the bigger, slower, heavier horse, if you like. It’s just [about] the way that the sport has developed.

2. I’m looking for several core attributes.

Horses, nowadays, need to be a bit of everything: very athletic, scopey, careful, and they have to be quick. Showjumpers have always had to be strong, but the olden day horse was a sturdier type than today’s. Mentally, they need to have a good brain, and they need to want to do the job—to have the attitude that they want to work with you. I wouldn’t let bad conformation put me off, but at the same time, you know that a horse with a leg at each corner is going to have better longevity in this sport.

There are horses out there who have all the talent in the world, but it’s no use if they’re going to use it to work against you.

3. First impression counts—but it’s not a dealbreaker.

To me, first impressions can make a difference, but I can look past [them] as well. I would much prefer a horse that maybe isn’t as talented but really understands what you want, and happily works with you. There are horses out there who have all the talent in the world, but it’s no use if they’re going to use it to work against you. I’m not sure there is anything in particular that would be a deal-breaker for me when I was trying out a horse. I could, and have, looked past a horse refusing at a fence during a trial, for example. You get a strong feeling about a horse and there are certain things you can forgive, especially in a trial situation.

“When I first tried [Sanctos], I perhaps didn’t think he was the scopiest.”

4. Sanctos has set the bar.

I’ve been very lucky with the horses I’ve had, and still have, but it is very difficult having had an unbelievable horse like Hello Sanctos. He has a lot to live up to! When I first tried him, I perhaps didn’t think he was the scopiest. My owner, Lord Harris, asked me if he thought he was an Olympic horse, and in all honesty, I didn’t. But I told him he’d make a good grand prix horse, and that was good enough for him to buy him. But he just got better and better. Sanctos, Ursula—all my best horses—they each have all the ingredients you need in a top showjumper. But above all, they want to win as much as I do.

-Photo credit: Erin Gilmore.