By: Georgia Hawkins
When it comes to inspiring stories, Victorian rider Fiona Guthrie and her magnificent Warmblood gelding Don Duchovny tick every box!
Despite being blind in one eye and not haven’t jumped until the age of 11, Donnie, as he’s affectionately known is on course to compete at World Cup Show Jumping level AS WELL as Grand Prix Dressage.
Fiona, who is sponsored by Kelato Animal Health has had the now 14 year old Donnie on NutriFLEX joint supplement for two years to support and strengthen his tendons and ligaments, and says there seems to be no limit to the horse’s talent and versatility. Fiona too has traversed the competitive stage, first as an elite eventer, reaching 3* level before moving into specialist dressage and show jumping. Part of the Danson Dressage team, Fiona recalls the first time she laid eyes on the big black gelding, “I saw him being lunged and just thought wow! He was so beautiful.”
He was owned at that time by Danson Dressage owner Heather Currie who’d bought him from Coldstream Park in Victoria where he was standing as a breeding stallion. He’d been competed in dressage with mixed results but hadn’t been ridden for two years. Heather believed he could possibly still have a career as a riding horse and she was right, the pair unbeaten up to Elementary level including winning the title of ‘Elementary Horse of the Year’.
Fiona’s opportunity to ride Donnie came not long after she began working for Danson Dressage. “He had plenty of tricks up his sleeve for me, he’d been gelded by that stage because he had struggled to concentrate at first but he still had a few stallion tendencies and unlike the Thoroughbreds I was used to in eventing, he needed real connection, my cowboy ways just didn’t work.”
With Heather’s help, Fiona lost the cowboy moves and learnt how to get the best out of Donnie. This was also the motivation for trying him at jumping. “Just to give him something different to focus on, he’s not a horse who enjoys training in an arena all the time, although I admit I was pretty sceptical at first considering his eye.”
In fact, despite hearing many different stories, Fiona hasn’t ever been able to confirm exactly how Donnie lost his eye, but believes it happened in Germany before he was imported to Australia as a 3 year old. In terms of his willingness to work, Fiona says Donnie isn’t affected at all but she has had to change the way she rides. “When we started jumping I forgot he couldn’t see properly around corners, we had one particularly bad near miss almost crashing through a wing, it taught me a lot!”
It’s fair to say that Donnie took to jumping like a duck to water! “He’s so honest, he stops at nothing and the jumping has made him a better dressage horse. He always lets me know if I’m training him too much on the flat, as long as we have a jump at least once a week he’s mentally happy.”
It’s been a meteoric rise up the ranks for the pair who jumped their first 80cm round in February 2015. Just seven months they later competed at 120cm at Adelaide Show while in the dressage they’re at Inter 1 and on a fast-track to Grand Prix.
Fiona’s sponsorship with Kelato is centres largely on Donnie and keeping him fit, strong and happy to continue performing at the highest level.
A dream team if there ever was one, Fiona describes Donnie as her “one in a million horse” who gives her 110% every time and meets every new challenge with gusto. The pair have well and truly made their mark on the Australian equestrian world and continue impress with their success.
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