Epicuris: a horse with an assertive character
Good horses often have an assertive character
Most people have heard of Epicuris! The horse, owned by Prince Khaled Abdullah, was trained at Madame Christiane Head-Maarek's stables at Chantilly. He was engaged with the Jockey Club to race on 31 May 2015. However, Epicuris would not go into the starting gates.
This was a serious problem. Epicuris, winner of the Gr1 as a 2 year old, needed to be handled with special care and attention to give him confidence. This is where the skills of Nicolas Blondeau come in: calmness, relaxation consistency and confidence.
Thus followed sessions in giving back confidence at Chantilly where Nicolas worked with the horse with a promising future so that he would go quietly into the starting gates. The first sessions were difficult: Epicuris challenged his educator, refused to obey, reared and was not at all happy to be touched. But several sessions concentrating on the hand-mouth contact worked like magic! However, the tests on 8 May in front of the France Galop stewards were not accepted as Epicuris would only go into the stalls with Nicolas Blondeau. On 12 May, Epicuris arrived in Saumur to work on his self-confidence. Nicolas carried out ridden work to encourage the horse to relax, and improve the hand-mouth contact. Epicuris was again presented to the France Galop stewards at Chantlly on 17 May. The first test proved successful using the GTHP puller, but the stewards wanted a second test. This did not go so well and Nicolas had to intervene.
The date of the Jockey Club race was approaching and Madame Christiane Head-Maarek asked if there could be a special dispensation for Nicolas Blondeau to accompany the horse on the day of the race. But France Galop refused and he was declared a non-runner.
This was very disappointing for the Head stables and for everyone involved as the distance of 2100 m was ideal for Epicuris.
The only solution was to race Epicuris in a country where the rules regarding the starting gates were different.
He was engaged to race in the Derby at Epsom where Nicolas would be allowed to take him to the starting gates and into the stalls.
Behind the scenes, everyone played his part: Thierry Thulliez, his jockey, was appreciative of Nicolas' advice, Pascale Galoche, head lad and training jockey of Epicuris and the champion Trêves, Capitaine, the travelling head lad and Fabrizio Specchio the groom. They were all terrific!
At Epsom on the 6 June, Epicuris and Nicolas worked well together, and he went quietly into his stall. Although he fidgeted before the start, Nicolas was at his side to reassure him.
Today, Epicuris is waiting for his next race and Nicolas Blondeau and his team look forward to hearing from Madame Christiane Head-Maarek about the work programme, which has yet to be decided.
There is no particular miracle, despite what people think, in what makes Nicolas Blondeau's work so effective.
The education of a young horse or giving him back confidence when he has been misused or if he is particularly sensitive, is the result of a structured method which consists of progressive and regular training to build up a relationship of confidence between horse and man.
Educating a horse means instilling in him the trust and confidence to do what is asked of him. It is training with progression and small repetition so that the tools of the trade may be assimilated.
The structured Blondeau Method of training is based on over 30 years of working with horses and on experience gained from the great riders through their books and their practical work.
Today, whatever the decision taken about Epicuris' future, the Ecole Blondeau will be at his side to help him in any way with his career while preserving the character which makes him such a champion.
We wish Epicuris a long and wonderful life!
Chapter 1: Interview with Nicolas Blondeau.
Video: Epicuris - retraining in the starting gates