Sep 5, 2022
At the home and heart of Ronnie Healy and Capital Magic Boy - we are proud to share this special insight into what makes your incredible team and partnership shine at the top!
For us to see Capital Stud horses at the top of the sport is our ultimate goal, and it gives us great pleasure to share this incredible story.
What do you believe are the key elements of success in this sport?
I say this a lot to my clients – it’s all about hard work. I think people try and cut corners to get to the top and when it gets hard it becomes easy to blame someone or something. The point is that, if it was easy, everyone would be at the top in any sport.
My most successful horses, and Ash’s [Ashlee Healy] in fact, are horses we’ve bought young and produced ourselves. We identified them and put the work in. You build a partnership. You build a friendship. We bought Capital Magic Boy off the Capital Auction. We identified him and from that point, it was just about hard work. Of course, good luck plays a role, but really, it’s about hard work. For me that is the biggest part of success. You don’t have to have all the talent but if you work hard, you’ll get there.
How do you approach the challenge of taking a young horse all the way to the 1.50m classes?
Getting a young horse to the top isn’t necessarily the hardest part, it’s keeping them there. You need to keep them fit, keep them happy and keep them competitive over many years.
What made you choose Magic Boy?
It was actually my mom who bought him. I was at a table with an owner at the Auction, and I couldn’t even see her. I had tried him and he had all the ability, but I wasn’t there thinking we were ever going to buy him. When it came around to Magic Boy I saw a few tables going back and forth, and wondered ‘Is that my mom bidding?’ He was second in price to Moonlight on that auction and I kept thinking ‘Wow, this is an expensive horse. I hope this isn’t my mother bidding.’ When they said “sold”, she just jumped up, and I was right in the corner with my clients and everybody just turned and looked at me and I was like “Oh my goodness - now it’s on me to make it work.”
Tell us about the journey with him
It was a lot of pressure in the beginning, I must say. Once you’ve seen the price tag you know you have to make it work. He won the Young Horse Performance Series as a 5-year-old and then as a 6-year-old he went through a bit of a patch and I didn’t even enter him. My mom was like, “You must jump him” but I knew I needed to take the pressure off and let him grow up a bit, but it was very hard. Everyone has something to say and there’s this feeling that ‘he must do it’. Nicole Horwood rides his full brother [Night Star] and she often says to me “Jeez Ron, you were so patient with him.” And I think that also is part of the process of getting these horses to the top – patience. When is the right time to push them up? When is the right time to take them down a few classes? But it is definitely harder with a big price tag.
Magic Boy was very tricky in patches, but he was worth it. I went through a few stages when I thought, is he going to make it to the top? I never had doubts about his ability, but you just have those moments when you question if you’re going to get there. I’ve had it with all of my horses. There’s an element of, ‘Is it going to work’? With time, you just learn to say ‘this is the process; I’ve got to be patient’. In the last eighteen months something has clicked with him and I.
What qualities make him successful at the top?
I’m going to go with a few different things, because we all know he has an incredible jump, huge scope and is plenty careful. We’ve known that since he was a baby. But, what people might not know unless they spend a little bit of time with him is that he’s so serious. He’s so game for the job. He’s not a joker. He’s proud of what he does and if he makes a mistake, he learns from it. I think that’s one of the biggest things that makes him better than others. He wants to do it. He wants to be perfect. You can see he wants to be a success in the way he works and the way he tries. It’s easy to say all the normal things, but that’s what makes the difference for me riding him.
We call him Mr Serious at the yard. A mare can be next to him, and he won’t even look. He’s concentrating. He’s serious. I think that’s a real attribute that he has that many other horses don’t. It’s only really in the last year or so that he’s become a bit more playful. I like my horses to play. It’s about expressing their personality and it’s my thing with them. I love a horse to have a personality, and it must come out when they are with us, because you’re a team in the ring and you must know each other’s personalities. When he has a play, I praise him with ‘good boy’ and he’s gradually becoming more playful with time.
Do you see any of his sire/dam sire coming through?
Yes, Toulon is a little fussy in the mouth, which he is as well, but he is getting better. Both he and Night Star were fussy to begin with but they’ve both settled. Nix and I are always talking about bits and what we’re doing differently – it’s almost a running joke between us.
Darco on his mother’s side gives all the scope. That’s where he gets his ability from, which makes sense as the dam line is one of the most important elements of breeding.
But, yes, there are traits of both.
When you enter the arena with Magic Boy, what are your strengths? Are there certain jumps, surfaces, weather conditions, course builders etc that you know will give you a good round?
Wherever I’ve gone with Magic Boy, he’s shone. It doesn’t matter about surface. He’s not spooky. He’s brave as a lion, which makes the job so much easier. I never go into the ring thinking ‘I’d better show him that’. He’s much too serious to contemplate spooking or stopping. He’d be distraught even thinking about it! He’s just game and that’s what I love about him. He’s one of the most game horses I’ve ever ridden. He just wants to compete. He knows he’s a winner and he wants to be perfect. His only issue is that he still wants to jump everything six feet wide and six feet high, and now at this point in his career, he needs to learn to be competitive, so I’m currently working on that element with him.
Describe his personality.
Mr Serious – that’s all I need to say.
How would you describe your partnership?
Our partnership is still growing. With any horse and rider, I think you are always building that. I talk about it with my clients – you almost need to get ready to go to war with each other. It’s not a horse or a rider – it’s
a being. You’ve got to feel a connection like no other. When you go in that ring, it’s not
up to you only; it’s you and your horse. It’s how you’ve managed that horse. It’s how he’s feeling physically and mentally. And if you don’t know that horse you’re never going to really compete.
Up to a level I know Magic Boy pretty much inside out, but as we keep growing, we’re keep constantly learning about each other. It’s not as simple as getting on and just jumping. I’m learning about him. He’s learning about me. You never stop learning, no matter what horse, or what class.
We’re building to Derby now – and it’s my favourite class – and what I love is the element of the unknown. You train and your ready mentally and physically, but you can still be surprised. There’s a reason why 10,000 people come to watch you at Derby, and it’s for the thrills and spills at Derby day. You can go and watch tennis, and you have an idea if someone is on form or not and whether they are going to win. But it’s not like that in our sport. There is really no other sport, where you have to work with a partner, and you need to know that partner to handle the unknown.
When is Magic Boy at his happiest?
He’s the happiest when he’s breeding – he’s
a typical man. He likes his time with Carel [DeBruyn] on the dummy. I mean, he loves to jump but when I watch him going off to breed, he knows where he’s going and he is ready for it.
Are you breeding just for you?
No, we’ve got a few people using him this year and we’ve got a few babies on the ground. Growing up my nickname was ‘Mommy’s Soldier’ and, yes, I was mocked, but we bred a foal out of a mare that Ash has called Jolie, who is a Quido de Buissy mare, and it’s a
little colt so we called it Mommy’s Soldier as it started with ‘m’. He’ll be coming up soon. He’s at Rathmor at the moment. He looks the spitting image of Magic. He’s 18 months old and in a couple of years and he’ll be out and about.
What has been your proudest moment together so far?
We’ve gone very slowly with the production so it’s not about the wins. I’m not someone who gallops round the smaller classes to have a win on a day. It’s really been about moments when I’ve realised we were on track. Like, he won the five-year-old Young Horse Performance Series, which was quite special. He’s been third in the Grand Prix and Kyalami Equestrian Park. He was clear in the 1.40m Derby last year, and then had a time fault so he was fifth. He was ninth in his first World Cup. Like I say, it’s not necessarily wins.
I’ve just started training again with Ronnie Lawrence and we’ve got a real good plan with him. I’m just trying to control my excitement. Michel van Eck came out to do some coaching and Magic Boy is just his favourite horse. He says it’s the best horse in the country for him and that next year he’ll jump more clear rounds than any other horse in the country and I believe that. We haven’t even started to see the real ability of this horse. If he doesn’t win the WCQ series next year or the year after, I’m doing something wrong – it’s not him.
Where to from here?
He needs to win some titles. That’s my next goal with him. It’s all great to have an amazing horse, but for people to know he was great, he needs to have some titles behind his name. So now, he’s learning to be competitive. Without breaking him and galloping him off his legs, because I have a bigger picture, I’m starting to become more competitive with him – tighter turns, inside turns etc but it’s a process. I think people want to gallop horses all their lives, and instead I like to aim for something. You don’t need to win every class, but build to certain classes. Magic Boy will come into his own now in 2023. He’ll be a real contender for all those big titles.
Who inspires you?
I’ve got a few riders that I love. Scott Brash is a good friend of mine. I was in the UK with him, and before he even became a top rider, we were mates. Just seeing where he’s come from and the hard work he’s put in - man, it’s so beautiful to watch him ride. He is a master.
I love Peder Fredricson – what he’s done with that horse for the Swedish team is just incredible. It’s an older horse and he comes out and it’s just beautiful to watch.
These guys – they are all great riders – but it’s their management that really impresses me. If you know them and watch them, you see the longevity of the horses and that’s what I really love. It’s not just a horse for a season, but a horse for lots of seasons and I think that shows a true horseman. To produce a horse from young and keep it for a long time and keep it sound and keep it going – especially at that level, Olympics, World Championships etc – is huge.
My favourite horse is King Edward. It’s amazing what he’s done. He’s only the third horse ever to jump six clear rounds around the Olympics, and he’s just jumped five clear rounds around the World Championships and he won the World Championships. To jump eleven Championship rounds at 1.60/1.65m is just exceptional. And Henrik van Eckermann as well. He’s not necessarily my favourite rider, but what a rider?!
Do you have a quote or an ethos?
I don’t particularly have a quote but I believe that what you put in you get out. It goes back to the Gary Player saying, “The more you practice, the luckier you get” and it’s so true. You can’t expect to be a top rider, or a consistent rider at a top level if you don’t put the work in. It goes back to the start of this conversation – hard work. If you want to be a top rider but you don’t have the horses or the ability of someone else – don’t let that stop you. I choose hard work over talent, every time. I had two riders that were both phenomenally talented but the one with the work ethic is jumping World Cups with me and the other isn’t. I choose hard work. Hard work is a quality you can’t force. It’s such an important thing for me. As a coach, I watch people and I know who’s going to be successful because they either put the work in or I see them every Tuesday and Thursday for lessons and nowhere in between.
Gratitude – who are you grateful to?
Obviously, my mother and father have been massive supporters of me, particularly my mom. My mom took me to all the shows growing up. My father funded it all [laughs]. So, for them, it goes without saying that I thank them from the bottom of my heart and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
Apart from them, my groom, Mollet, is my number one. He’s been with me since I came back from Europe. He’s got his family with me here. He’s not my groom; he’s my friend. I know my horses are looked after with him. He does it because he loves it. And that’s another part of my success is knowing my team is on point. I know when I get to the show, I don’t have to worry about anything. He knows what I want and how I like it. I’m anal, and I feel sorry for him a lot of the time but he knows me now. He’s my brother and when we win, we win, and when we lose, he’s always there to get me ready for next time. He’s been the greatest supporter of me and my horses.
We are incredibly proud of this partnership and honoured to share stories like this. It has been a privilege for us to watch your progress as a partnership from the side of the arena Thank you, and we look forward to the successful chapters that follow.