Belgian paralympic medal winner Manon Claeys has decided to send her number one horse, San Dior, into early retirement due to an injury.
San Dior is a 15-year old Oldenburg by Stedinger out of De Nila (by De Niro x Welt Hit II x Manstein). He is bred by Albert Liekens in Belgium.
From Germany to Holland
San Dior was first competed in Germany as a 4-year old in 2012 by Mara Filikowski.
He sold to the Netherlands and was shown locally first before moving into the ownership of Saudi construction mogul and paralympic rider Ahmad Adnan Sharbatli.
San Dior, however, proved to be a very tricky ride and in 2016 Claeys bought him at a reduced price.
"He was known for being quite difficult because when he was young, they pushed him excessively and it was too much pressure for him. Eventually he didn’t want to work at all anymore," Claeys explained in an interview. "That was the reason I was able to buy him in the first place. Otherwise he would have been too expensive or not for sale at all. He is a very talented horse but also very special. He has a lot of blood, is 1,82 m tall and very sensitive."
Grade IV dressage rider Manon Claeys fell off a young horse when she was 21 and fractured three vertebrae and her neck. She required a seven-hour surgery to prevent her from being paralysed. It took her two years to return to the saddle.
Claeys and San Dior made their international show debut in November 2016 and first represented Belgium at the 2017 European Para Championships, where they got silver in the individual test. They were just out of the medals at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, but at the 2019 European Championships in Rotterdam, got silver and bronze. At the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics they got double bronze.
San Dior was withdrawn from 2022 World Championship contention due to an injury, which turned out to be sport career ending.
"He can now enjoy his well earned retirement," Claeys stated. "He will continue to get the best care and attention because he deserves that for all he has meant for me. San Dior is a loyal friend who gave me his whole heart. I owe everything to him and this was the hardest decision in my life."
Claeys will continue her sport career with her second horse Katherina Sollenburg (by Electron) with the 2024 Paris Paralympics as targets.
"I also have Naomi Sollenburg (by Just Wimphof) and Prima Donna Sollenburg (by Electron) from the same breeder," Manon told Eurodressage. "I'm happy to have successors but it's been a painful day to say goodbye to the sport with my best friend."
Photos © Astrid Appels - Dirk Caremans - Liz Gregg