Mandy Porter and Con Capilot.
Photo: Captured Moment Photography
Breeder Nancy Gooding doesn't make a habit of buying stallions over the phone. The owner of Plum Creek Hollow Ranch in Larkspur, CO, Nancy usually goes to the Westfalian auction in Germany to see prospects and/or their offspring first hand.
That was not an option in the summer of 2006, yet she has no regrets about having bought the Con Capitol son, Con Capilot, by bidding over the phone. In truth, it wasn't that big of a gamble.
Nancy had been alerted by a trusted connection that there was a "very special" horse at auction. That tip was corroborated by the terrific conformation and jumping form she saw in videos of the then 3-year-old stallion. The appeal of bringing new bloodlines to Plum Creek Hollow further emboldened Nancy to place the highest bid for a horse she hadn't seen in person.
It's turned out to be a very wise decision. Given four years to grow up and get well started in the jumper ranks, Con Capilot was sent to Grand Prix rider Mandy Porter's San Diego stable three years ago. Owner and rider share a training agenda based on slow and careful progress. With two major West Coast Grand Prix wins this year and a high position on this season's World Cup rankings, the dividends of that approach are piling up.
Mandy recognized "Pilot's" abilities before she had any inkling she'd become his rider. She was first impressed while in Colorado giving a clinic. His athletic abilities were obvious as Plum Creek's rider took him through modest jumping exercises. They were even more evident from the saddle when Mandy was invited to give Pilot a test ride shortly after the clinic. Impressed by Mandy's reputation as a good person and horsewoman, Nancy gave her the ride. In their first year together, they contested a few lower-height Grand Prix classes in Northern California, along with 1.45 meter classes at Thunderbird Show Park in Canada.
In 2012, Con Capilot's mental abilities began to catch up with his physical abilities. "He really started to figure out how to rate himself over the bigger tracks," Mandy recalls. By that fall, Mandy and Nancy agreed that World Cup classes were coming within his range, but they would still proceed carefully and patiently. "We took him to a few shows with qualifiers, but decided that if the course looked too difficult for him, we wouldn't push it." The process fits Mandy's plan with any horse: "building him up while keeping their confidence really high." By 2012's last qualifier, at the Las Vegas National Horse Show in November, Pilot made his World Cup league debut, nicely handling a challenging course with just one rail down.
A January win of the $50,000 EMO Grand Prix at HITS Thermal got 2013 off to a great start, while victory in the Sacramento International's World Cup class this past October marked an important milestone in their progress. The pair returned to the mid-November Las Vegas competition, to finish fourth in the qualifier and become the top ranking Americans in the West World Cup League rankings. That sets up a very realistic shot at fulfilling their goal of qualifying for the Finals, held next April in Lyon, France.
In addition to athletic gifts, intelligence is Pilot's greatest asset. "He's very clever," Mandy reports. It helps him size up the effort needed to fly over courses of various height, width and striding challenges. "What that means as his rider and for those working with him is that everybody has to be aware that he always knows what's going on," Mandy explains. That mindset made it especially important to proceed at a slow, confidence-building pace. Had he been faced with a too-tough track too soon, he would have been the first to know.
At home at ACP Enterprises in Rancho Santa Fe, Pilot can be quite lazy. "He could easily be mistaken for a horse who lacks energy, but it's more that he just doesn't over exert himself." In the show ring, it's another story. He knows exactly his job in competition and lights up for it, with the occasional exuberant buck when he's especially pleased with himself.
"Gorgeous George" is the striking dark brown stallion's nickname. Mandy describes him as a very sweet horse who loves to be the center of attention. He's also a stallion who has an opinion and is not afraid to express it. "When he came out of the ring after the Sacramento class, he started this little nickering session," Mandy relays. "It's like he was talking about how good he'd been."
He's no fan of flatwork, so Mandy keeps that to the minimum necessary to keep him fit and responsive and uses alternative forms of conditioning whenever possible. Hitting the Rancho Santa Fe trail system is usually a twice-weekly outing when home and she seeks out any chance to get him out and about while at shows. Pilot especially loved cantering on the racehorse training track available during the early weeks of the Sacramento circuit.
Breeding interest is rising along with Con Capilot's successes, and it's not just from jumper fans. Those interested in hunters and dressage prospects are equally enamored. One fan advises Mandy to campaign him in Hunter Derbies and Grand Prix jumpers at the same time. Temperament-wise, if there's a horse that could handle that, it would be Pilot, Mandy says.
To maximize focus on his show jumping job, Pilot is not collected during the show season. During downtime between Las Vegas and the Thermal World Cup qualifiers starting early next year, he will be collected and made available throughout the year via frozen semen.
Con Capilot carries the strong jumping lines of his sire, Con Capitol and grandsire Contender, as well as those of his dam, Port Said IV, a Pilot mare. He already has a handful of very promising young horses on the ground. One of his oldest is the coming 4-year-old Catherine. "She has big, smooth movements, a great attitude and no vices," Nancy reports. "She is easy to ride and has a wonderful natural balance." Nancy predicts she'll be chasing her father in the Grand Prix ranks in a few years' time.
Breeding inquiries are coming almost exclusively from Con Capilot's show results and people seeing him in action. Thanks to interests in addition to breeding, Nancy has not yet made a big priority of marketing him as a stallion. If his results continue on their current course, marketing matters may take care of themselves.