Ocala, FL – The final Sunday Spotlight of the World Equestrian Center 2023 Ocala Summer Series shines on Verdini D’houtveld Z (Verdi TN x Caretino 2). Owned and ridden by Lauren Balcomb of Australia, the 12-year-old Zangersheide gelding has become a popular competitor during the Saturday night Grand Prix with spectators recognizing the dynamic bay gelding for his diminutive stature and explosive jumping style. We caught up with Balcomb to learn more about her partnership with the stylish gelding and hear about their successful trip to the Netherlands for the Olympic Show Jumping Qualifier.
WEC: Tell us about your early partnership with Verdini D’houtveld Z?
I first bought ‘Dini’ when he was six years old. He was in our business partner’s stable in Belgium. He called Sharn, saying he had a really pretty horse that has a lot of blood, he’s super brave, great mover and we think he’d make a great three-day horse. He was currently doing the six-year-old classes, and at that point I was still doing three-day eventing, so I went and tried him and ended up buying him.
It was not looking like he’d jump bigger than 1.30m. I evented him for about a year, and he started jumping better and better. We decided the route to go down was to be a show jumper, but I think cross country helped him. There are not too many show jumpers I would advise taking cross country schooling, but over time it helped him gallop and jump across the fences rather than up and down.
WEC: How does it feel now that you’re jumping 1.60m tracks at five-star competitions?
To be honest, it’s been surreal. He’s exceeded everyone’s expectations. Each season, he keeps growing and developing as a horse. I believed in him from the very beginning, but I never knew we’d be here.
Just going out there and having the experience to pilot him around now, it just shows how much we’ve grown together. We had to take it slowly in the beginning, because he does jump so high and gives such an effort every time. We wanted to do things right by him and myself, so we could be confident jumping at the top level.
I think WEC has also been a huge factor in our development together. Jumping the three-star here, you’re prepared to go to any championship anywhere. We are lucky to have this right in our backyard, and we are jumping out of our skin in anticipation of the Longines League of Nations™ qualifier in March. It just shows what the Roberts family have done and what they created. It’s an unbelievable venue, the fact that we get to have those quality shows in our backyard, we were always hoping for that, but now that’s actually on the schedule – we are beyond excited!
WEC: Tell us about your recent trip to the Netherlands!
Dini flew out right after the last three-star here. He flew to Valkenswaard, Netherlands for the Olympic Qualifier. Basically, in our Group G, two teams qualify for the Olympics. I got put on the Australian team to hopefully help qualify Australia for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
It was actually my first time showing in Europe. I’ve only ever tried sales horses, so it was so much fun. To be in that environment, having the hope to qualify Australia was pretty surreal.
We had the warmup class on Monday, then the Qualifier on Tuesday. There weren’t too many people around, so it was a different atmosphere compared to what we usually have here on a Saturday night. To go jump a really big track like that without one, it almost felt bigger because you don’t have that sense of an occasion, but you have all the pressure of one.
He did the warmup class on Monday and felt in great form. On Tuesday, midday we kicked off with the qualifier, and he jumped the first-round clear which was amazing. Then in the second round it was a shame, he really should of went clear, but he was actually taking a poo over the first jump and touched the back rail. He jumped clear the rest of the way, but I felt so bad for the poor guy, he would have done it if it wasn’t for that inconvenient timing!
At the end, he was the best performed horse and our team won! Australia is going to the 2024 Olympics. It was unreal. I am still pinching myself.
Read about Group G Olympic Qualifier Valkenswaard 2023 at World of Showjumping.
WEC: Tell us your favorite things about Dini.
He is the most outrageous, most talented, biggest hearted, sweetest animal you’ll ever come across. If you write down on paper what you want in a horse, well you could put maybe a tiny bit bigger, just so the jumps don’t look so huge! But aside from that, he’s everything; he’s unbelievable and just loves his job.
Everyday he’s excited to work. He doesn’t want to trail ride or just hack he wants to be in that arena. He never wants to stand still – he just loves it. Every time he jumps, he’s playing or bucking. If he’s not bucking, there’s something wrong. He just wants to jump and wants to win.
WEC: What’s next for you and Dini after the 2023 Ocala Summer Series?
After this show, he’s going to have a break. He’ll do a small show in Wellington in September. In October and November, we are going to go do the tour in Mexico and jump a few five-star events there, which I am really excited for.
Then he’ll have a bit of a break until the two three-star events here in December. After that, Sharn and I are going to go visit our families in Australia and New Zealand for the holidays. Dini will have a nice break before we gear back up for the winter circuit here!
Thank you Lauren for taking the time to chat with us! We are looking forward to watching your success with Dini!