By Helen Sharp
Photography: Irish Country Living, Cheryl Broderick, Lorraine O’Sullivan
Thirty-four years ago, Kevin Babington packed up his riding kit and left Tipperary for America, still only a teenager. He was to become a titan of the ring, with thousands of showjumping rounds, the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, European championships, and dozens of Nations Cups under his belt.
In 2019, whilst aboard the supremely talented Shorapur, the trick of a shadow caused the mare to falter at the third part of a triple combination during the Hampton Classic show. The dark-bay mare took off early, catching her front legs, and the talented pair fell heavily together. In that split second, amongst the clattering poles and surface dust, life changed for them both forever. Kevin suffered a catastrophic injury to his spinal cord which has left him paralysed and on a long road to recovery. Shorapur was uninjured but the trajectory of her life was also about to change.
Born in 2005, the Hanoverian mare Shorapur (Stakkato Gold x Drosselklang II) was six years old when Kevin first laid eyes on her. He was at a friend’s yard in Germany trying another horse at the time, when his friend showed him the video of “an interesting mare”. After watching the video, Kevin immediately wanted to sit on Shorapur but wasn’t initially encouraged as he recounts: “I said I wanted to sit on her, and my friend said, ‘She’s really difficult, I don’t know if you really want to sit on her.’ I said, ‘No, I want to sit on her.’ And so I insisted on trying her and when I did she was quirky, she was hot and she was tricky, but the jump was phenomenal.”
Buying Shorapur was the next challenge and Kevin had to buy out a partner to acquire a half-share of her. “I brought her to the States and as a seven-year-old she looked phenomenal. She was sort of the talk of the show, and I had a very good rider try her who wanted to purchase her, and so we were back and forth on price. One of my customers said, ‘You don’t seem very happy about selling her,’ and I said, ‘I’m always happy to sell but I think she’s going to be a topper someday.’ And she said, ‘Well why don’t we figure out a way to keep her’.” So together with some customers and friends that’s just what Kevin did, putting a syndicate together called the Shorapur group.
Shorapur wasn’t an easy ride, with a whole lot of her grandsire Stakkato in the way she jumps. “I wouldn’t be familiar with the motherline so much,” Kevin admits, “but she’s just a very blood horse, and very much a mare. Like in the sense that she is very sensitive, very opinionated. Wasn’t the easiest horse to work on the flat. She had quite a difficult canter, especially on one lead more than the other, she had quite a hard canter, but she had huge respect for the jump... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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