Ocala, FL – This first Sunday Spotlight of the 2023 November & December Show Series, shines on show jumping icon, Richard Spooner of the United States. Boasting an impressive record of over 100 grand prix victories and nearly 70 international wins, Spooner is a well-known name in the industry, often referred to as the ‘Master of Faster’. His extensive global career includes 15 World Cup™ Finals, and podium finishes all over the map. We caught up with Spooner to explore the remarkable places he has ventured and to learn more about a few horses that he has been showing at World Equestrian Center – Ocala.
WEC: Throughout your career, where were some of your favorite places to compete?
The few benefits of having top horses, you get to go to amazing places and see things that you wouldn’t see otherwise. Robinson and Cristallo forged me the opportunities to go to incredible places, like Brazil, Leipzig, Paris, Milano, Geneva and Hong Kong. My family was able to come with me, and we got to make so many memories.
Monaco had to be of the most impressive places I showed. We showed where they started the Monaco grand prix car race. People would boat over and park their yachts right next to the competition ring. They would sit on their highest deck and watch the show. It was such an unbelievable site.
Paris was also one of my favorite places to show. We would be right downtown and have the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop. Hong Kong was pretty fun too. You could catch a train right off the show grounds, and within a half an hour you’d be downtown in the buzz of all the people and go site seeing. Lima, Peru was also a cool place to visit. Every destination was a new journey, and it was so incredible to see so many different civilizations and different ways people live.
WEC: Tell us about some of your most memorable mounts.
I was lucky enough to have two, Robinson and Cristallo. They were exceptional athletes and amazing animals. They were both physically strong, and stayed sound for over a decade performing at the top of the sport. With two horses, I spent from 1997 to 2017, traveling all over the world and competing at the highest level. I lived in Germany, France and Canada for a while. Both horses helped define my career.
WEC: Tell us about how you got your nickname, Master of Faster.
Mike Moran was a popular announcer on the west coast. I had Robinson at the time, and it was at the peak of his career – he had already won 40 grands prix. The horse was a rocket, about as fast as they come. He could beat anybody else’s time. We were at a show near Reno, Nevada and Mike was the announcer, it was the jump-off, and he said ‘Here comes Richard Spooner, the master of going faster.’ After that it just stuck.
Both Robinson and Cristallo were both such fast horses. It certainly wasn’t intended to stick the way it did and there are sometimes I wouldn’t mind shaking the moniker. Sometimes I just want to try and be double clear and consistent.
WEC: Tell us about some of the horses you are riding now.
Quirado RC is my grand prix horse. He’s huge, over 18hh and probably 1,500 pounds. When I was living in California, I was having dinner with a fellow rider, John Pearce, and he said if he could buy a horse, it was this six-year-old. I ended up trying him and fell in love. Guy McElvain, owner of Rancho Corazon helped facilitate the deal. Down the road Tracy Esse bought half of him and I own the other half.
His progress in the beginning was a bit sideways than forward, but that’s sometimes how it goes with young horses. He was very big and spooky, but slowly started to get more relaxed. Now, he’s the most consistent horse I have. He goes in the ring, knows the job and does it well. It’s always impressive to me, when horses get older and don’t get blasé about the sport. He stays sharp and I’m very fortunate to have him.
Halcon, who we call Hawk, is a freak of nature. He’s coming eight this next year. Friends of mine, Santiago and Erica Ricard in Argentina shot me a video during COVID of Hawk. At the time, I wasn’t in the market for any horse, but as soon as I saw the video, I was immediately. I called a past owner of mine Clark and Molly Ohrstrom and told them about the horse. They are amazing owners and have had horses all over the world. They decided to pull the trigger and buy him off the video. He’s the first horse I ever purchased over a video, but boy, I am sure happy I did.
He’s amazing. The hind end on him is incredible. Robinson had an amazing hind end, but Hawk just makes your jaw drop. He’s so careful, I am able to do things on him that you wouldn’t be able to do on other horses. I have high hopes for him, but I will go as far as he wants to go. I believe he has everything to make a top-level horse. We got him as a four coming five-year-old, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to develop him and see how far he’s come in such a short amount of time.
Another horse I have been riding is Black Pearl. He’s beautiful. We’ve been doing the 1.35m and he is just wonderful to ride. He’s for sale and I think he has a great future ahead.
WEC: How you think World Equestrian Center – Ocala compares to other top facilities in the world?
The facility is second to none. When I thought about moving from California, I called a buddy of mine, Will Simpson. He had just made the move from California to Ocala a few weeks prior. Will said, ‘My whole life, I have been traveling to top horse shows in the world, but I would just love it, if a top show would just come to me.’ As you get older, you don’t want to travel as much. I’m not Mick Jagger or Keith Richards, I don’t have the tenacity.
To live this close to what I think is the best facility in the world, I feel graced to have the opportunity. The Roberts family have put a lot of thought and passion into this venue, and the sport is lucky to have them. They could have picked any other sport in the world, but they chose ours.
It’s enriching the region and improving the sport in North America. The potential for growth is extraordinary. Judging from what they’ve done so far, and their continued mission to evolve, I think everyone in the world has high hopes and dreams for WEC.
I know next year, WEC will host the new Longines League of Nation™ which is a really big deal. The fact that such a young facility and horse show organization has been granted that opportunity, it’s quite exceptional and so deserving. As well as the World Cup™ Qualifier in 2025. As the Roberts family develops the facility, they are also developing the sport.
While I was in Monaco, Hunter Harrison, the Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Pacific Railway Company, sponsored a class and told me something I’d never forget, ‘When it comes to this sport, a rising tide lifts all ships.’ There is no question World Equestrian Center – Ocala is rising the tide.