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Qalao des Mers

Qalao and Maxime – who can talk about his protégé at great length with much admiration and emotion – took some time in their busy schedule to answer Tacante’s questions.
Qalao des Mers

Photos : © Ecuries Livio

Qalao des Mers the 1.68m bay SF by Iolisco de Quinhon and Ucaria de Crestian by Kachou was born 16 years ago at Isabelle Debruyne’s in Segré in the Anjou region. He experienced a rather rocky start to his career which gave little hint of his abilities as a champion. Qalao first started under François Poppe’s saddle before moving to Nicolas Touzaint’s. While he was working with Paul Gatien the international eventing rider Maxime Livio, his owner for the past 8 years spotted him and was really impressed by his physical and mental skills. He was not to be disappointed; coming from the horse’s mouth himself: “you don’t get to meet many horses like him in a rider’s career”!

Qalao and Maxime – who can talk about his protégé at great length with much admiration and emotion – took some time in their busy schedule to answer Tacante’s questions over the phone, as required by social distancing.

Where does your name come from?

I don’t know. We should ask my breeder Isabelle Debruyne who is still in touch and visits me from time to time.

How did the lockdown go and what has been happening since?

I have a hairline fracture in one of my fetlocks which compelled me to withdraw from the 2018 Tryon World Equestrian Games. I haven’t been competing since. So, the lockdown period for me hasn’t really changed anything in my routine.
I am currently waiting for the vet check-up to be told whether I can compete again or if it is the end of my sports career. Maxime doesn’t want this season to be the one too many. If the vet doesn’t give the green light, I am quite happy to spend the rest of my days in the paddock. There are worse ways to spend one’s retirement!

Where do you live? Can you describe your stables?

Our stables are located in Dénezé-sous-Doué close to Saumur. They used to be foaling barns, so they are very spacious with a lot of natural light and we are all housed in big stalls. There is a vast central area, and you will find all the work facilities for us to train and exercise – a jumping arena, a dressage arena, an Olympic size arena, a walker, etc. Every day we get to spend time in the wide paddocks and there are also lovely paths in the wood to go for rides.
The perfect setting and facilities for top athletes! Did you know that we are hosting high profile neighbours: the Thai national team #Team Thailand who trains for the Tokyo Olympic Games!

How do you get on with your stable mates?

I am a solitary horse who is both generous and nervous.
Oddly, I don’t have a herd instinct. On the contrary I am quite close to humans especially to the people who look after me. I simply ignore the other horses with whom I don’t really entertain relations.

What is your best skill?

My intense and complete generosity! To quote Maxime, I always invest myself beyond reason.
I never put myself first so even on a 5* cross country my rider has to reign me in as I always want to give extra.

What is your worst flaw? What is the worst mischief you got into?

Maybe small technical mistakes.
I don’t have faults as such. But I would say that I have a slight OCD.
Mathilde and Maxime like to study the mental profile of their horses in order to understand them and to work out a suitable work protocol. When they observed me, they realised that I was like one of those exceptionally gifted artists full of talent. I could dazzle and more or less do anything, but it had to be within a very specific frame and according to a familiar protocol for me to feel secure.

I am going to share a small anecdote with you. I am very nervous on competitions and I can’t eat. During the Caen World Equestrian Games one of our fans had given us a soft toy. So, one day Mathilde decided to tie the soft toy above my manger, and I ate my food. The soft toy would disappear, and I would stop eating.
This soft toy is somehow my comforter, I find it reassuring; I chew it and play with it. Obviously the first one I was given had to be replaced a few times over the years!

What is your favourite colour?

Yellow because I love bananas.

What is your favourite activity?

I love to spend time in the paddock and whatever the weather: rain, wind, snow, gale. Nothing will deter me. I love it.

What do you dislike most in the world?

The sound of the whistle on the cross country. It is a true nightmare. It makes me physically sick!
Since I am totally unable to control my emotions this whistle gets me into a state until it is my turn to go. It is only then when I throw myself into the cross that I feel relieved and free.

To give you an example. When we were competing in Pau the cross country started at 11am, Maxime and I were scheduled for 2pm. Well, when I heard the first whistle blow at 11am until our turn to go at 2pm, I spent 3 hours sweating in a state of total stress.

What has been your best memory?

The Lexington week in the US in 2017 where we came 2nd with Maxime in the 5*. It was so magical. I was totally chilled.
And I got to travel on a plane!

Which frame of mind are you in at the moment?

I am caught in between two moods: mentally I can’t wait to start competing again and at the same time I am quite content in my comfortable routine at home.

Do you have a life motto you would like to share with us?

12) It has to be this sentence that Maxime keeps telling me over and over: “Stay with me!”

How can we keep up to date with your news?

On the FB and Instagram pages of T3M the Ecurie Livio competition team. There, you will find out whether I am allowed to step back in the competing arena or whether I carry on with my lazy life grazing.

For more interviews of eventing personalities: Maggie May or Upsilon

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