Home In previous issues Record-breaking performance for Jax Johnson down under

Record-breaking performance for Jax Johnson down under

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Breeder David Woolley with Jax Johnson and Gaylene Lennard in 2018

By Sally Reid
Photography: Cornege Photography, Hannah Comrie Photography

It may be a regular occurrence for Europeans, but for us New Zealanders a locally bred sport horse celebrating an international win is a major and rare occasion. So rare, in fact, that it can’t go unmentioned! It’s especially exciting when both horse and rider are very, very new to the top level – and super impressive when their performance breaks records.

Bred by David Woolley and Rania Todd, Jax Johnson (Johnson NOP - Ala Mode x Anamour), an 11-year-old New Zealand Warmblood gelding, recently travelled to Sydney in an attempt to gain his FEI MER qualifying score for the up-coming World Championships in Herning, Demark. Jax Johnson and his 59-year-old owner/rider, Gaylene Lennard – who only took up competitive dressage 10 years ago after a lifetime as a show rider – had had just one previous start at CDI3* level, at Taupo in March. They won this, achieving the first of their MER scores.
The pair crossed the Tasman as there were no more competitions available in New Zealand, and, in Sydney the following month, finished third in the Grand Prix – their first international start. They then went on to win the Grand Prix Special and, against all odds, the GP Freestyle with a score of 76.875%. This broke not only the New Zealand record (previously held by German-bred Vom Feinsten (Fidermark I x Weltmeyer), but the record for the competition itself, which had stood for 18 years. All five judges had ‘Jax’ at the top of the leaderboard, with Germany’s Katrina Wüst awarding the highest marks.
“It is quite unbelievable,” Lennard told ESNZ at the time. “I am lost for words; I never imagined this would happen.” As far as an appearance in Denmark is concerned, she is making no plans. “I wasn’t even sure Jax and I were good enough [for Sydney], so now I will go home and ask a few more questions about just what is involved.”
Not only is Gaylene Lennard a newcomer to the discipline, she is a genuine amateur. She, her sister Dorothy and their 92-year-old mother, Betty, run a 240-cow dairy farm in the Waikato. She has owned Jax since he was a four-year-old, having spotted him advertised on a Facebook video. Aware of the success of two other Johnson horses bred by Woolley (Windermere J’Obei W and Windermere Johanson: more about them later) she decided to buy Jax. He was far from easy in the early days and can still be a big handful (especially at plaiting time). “The really exciting thing is that there is so much more to come from him,” says Lennard. “This is just the beginning.”

Windermere J’Obei W ridden by Melissa Galloway

Jax Johnson has superb bloodlines – and not just through his illustrious sire. His dam, Ala Mode (Anamour - Drama Queen x Dynamit), is a registered New Zealand Hanoverian whose German-bred sire, Anamour (Aalborg -Lucille x Lombard), is one of the most successful Warmbloods this county has ever seen. He died in 2015 leaving a legacy that might well be impossible to match.
Dynamit (Dynamo - Elfie x Eger II), Ala Mode’s damsire, was the foundation stallion at Vollrath Stud and another top NZHS/NZWA sire bred in Germany. Very sadly, Ala Mode died last year post foaling, but her own legacy is shaping up to be something quite special. Her seven-year-old gelding son Zodiac DW (by Glock’s Zonik) won the Advanced Medium Championship at the South Island Championships recently, and she is the granddam of top NZ rider Vanessa Way’s very interesting young Johnson mare, Jolie DW (Johnson NOP - Qurious x Quattro B. More about them below... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber

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