The Plaid Horse - The Education Issue 2021

Page 94



“He Just Takes Your Breath Away” How Mr. Manhattan is keeping the magic alive for Martin Schlaeppi and Redfield Farms WORDS: TORI





SK WHAT makes Mr.

Manhattan spectacular, and the first answer is unanimous. “Oh, his jumping. I mean, there’s no question about it,” says John Barker, Manhattan’s trainer. “Just a perfect hunter style.” The German sporthorse (Maximus – Phillipa) was bred and produced by Redfield Farms in Ocala, FL. It was the farm’s owner, Emil Spadone, who got to see that famous jump for the very first time. “He jumped so well, just naturally. He went over that first little jump and he did it exactly the way you want to do it,” Spadone says. “Mr. Manhattan was stunning, even then,” says Martin Schlaeppi. Schlaeppi and Barker traveled to

Spadone’s farm to look at horses to buy. Schlaeppi admits he wasn’t thinking about American-bred talent specifically. He was looking for exceptional horses. That’s when he spotted a chestnut 4-year-old who captured his attention. “He just had a presence about him. The way he jumped and the way he looked,” Schlaeppi says. “You look at him and say, ‘God, this is a nice horse.’” After a couple nights of restless sleep, Schlaeppi purchased Manhattan. Right away, Schlaeppi along with John and Kitty Barker, started cultivating Manhattan’s future. After a couple of years, they brought on Daniel Geitner to pilot the green horse. “First time I saw him, I remember thinking he was big and gangly,” Geitner says. “But boy, when he

94     THE PLAID HORSE     December 2021 / January 2022

jumped, he could just explode. I remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe this big gawky horse can jump like that.’ It was pretty cool.” Manhattan is still big, measuring in at a little over 17 hands, but he’s just about grown out of his ‘gawky’ phase. With his natural jump remarkably consistent and already close to perfection, the team worked on smoothing out the “in between” the jumps. Along the way, Manhattan’s mind, attitude, and natural interest radiated. Characterized by playful nips and a charismatic presence on the ground, the Barkers will tell you, “he’s spoiled.” In the ring, Manhattan has come to be defined as extremely giving, rarely taking effort for granted. “If you ask nicely, he’ll give to you every time,” says Geitner.

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