By Christopher Hector and Umberto Martuscelli
Photography: Peter Llewellyn, Silvio Mariani†
He was a Thoroughbred stallion: Sans Blague. She a heavy Breton work horse: Ecstasy. Both lived in La Bragadina, Baron Treves de Bonfili's country estate in Legnago, along with the other horses of the house. Like all true Thoroughbreds, he was light. She was a typical draft horse, mighty, muscular, huge.
One day in 1951 Sans Blague is in his paddock enjoying the flavors of late spring. Ecstasy was also in her paddock, quiet and peaceful. Different paddocks, obviously, divided by some fences. The flavors of spring, and likely the scent brought by the wind of Ecstasy in heat must have inspired Sans Blague... who decides to do something he had never done before: over the fence of his paddock and out, galloping decisively accross the fields, he jumps another fence, then enters the paddock of Ecstasy and... it happens. Something happens that obviously shouldn’t have happened! Ecstasy becomes pregnant, and in 1952 a roan foal (like her dam) was born and is baptized Ulla.
What to do with her? Nothing in particular: what can the daughter of a Thoroughbred and a heavy draft mare that was a mistake of birth do? Yet, Baron Treves decides to have Ulla broken to saddle, as an experiment and a fitting adventure for a 14-year-old boy. Ulla is good, used to regular human contact, and has grown up to be a 50/50 mix of her mother and father.
Young Stefano Carli starts to ride Ulla asking and teaching her everything, but with no intention of making her a jumping horse. So, together they stroll around the countryside, chasing cows, skipping over the ditches and, at some point, Ulla proves to have a talent that no one would have expected. Why not try to jump? So Stefano tried.
Can you guess how this story ends? The 16-year-old Stefano takes the seven-year-old Ulla to the European Junior Championship in Venice in 1960 where they were members of the Italian bronze medal-winning team. The pair then went on to a series of victories and placings in increasingly difficult classes. They debuted in the CSIO d'Italia in Piazza di Siena, and participated in the Rome Grand Prix... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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