One of Belfast’s best known companies, the SHS group which includes WKD as part of its portfolio boasts a showjumping horse qualified for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, writes Ruth Loney.
Templepatrick showjumping team rider Sameh El Dahan has qualified for Tokyo with Joanne Sloan Allen’s million dollar winning mare Suma’s Zorro having won the recent Nations Cup event in Rabat, Morocco.
The Sloan family of Joe Pat and Joanne, a long time family in racing and showjumping is also sponsoring at the Down Royal winter festival.
Mother of three, Joanne Sloan Allen has masterminded success in the past year which includes a win in the million dollar Calgary Masters and now the Tokyo ticket after winning in Morocco.
The horse Suma’s Zorro which she bought as a six month old foal, rode herself for four years before handing over to Sameh El Dahan who came to work for her from Egypt is now one of the highest winning showjumping mares in the world.
The success was a dream come true for Sycamore stables, sponsored by WKD, which scooped up the last two team Olympic qualifications in the African Middle East Zone F qualifiers where Qatar took the second ticket.
Suma’s Zorro helped Egypt win the Rabat Nations Cup and take the Olympic qualifier for the Egyptian team much to the delight of the team, managed by Sloan Allen, who also competes herself.
She explained: “It was a fantastic day, to be on a winning Nations Cup team and qualify for Tokyo, it is way up there in the terms of horse bucket lists.”
Sameh added: “Suma’s Zorro is the smartest animal I’ve ever dealt with in my whole life, she knows what’s going on and can feel what’s happening around her.” The combination also won the one million dollar first prize at the 2018 Calgary Masters.
Winning in Rabat meant everything to the Egyptian team. Sameh pointed out: “As a rider you dream of representing your country at the Olympics, it’s been in our heads for the last while that we may need to go to the nations cup in Morocco and have our best horses and riders in top form.”
With Tokyo beckoning, Suma’s Zorro is sixteen years old next year so Joanne is concentrating on her fitness. She explained: “It will be the most crucial thing we need to make sure we get it right. For Zorro that means jumping even in smaller classes with me to keep her trim.
“She will hopefully do some nations cups with Team Egypt and apart from that we will just cross our fingers.”
Because Sameh can only take one horse to Tokyo, he and Joanne are aiming to qualify the nine year old mare WKD Aimez Moi as a back up.
Sycamore Stables sends horses globally to compete. Sameh, who qualified as a doctor in Cairo, came to Joanne as a work rider to help her when her kids were small. After years of perserverance and producing young horses to Grand Prix level, Suma has won a grand slam, jumped in two world championships, won the Paris Global Champions GP, the Calgary Masters and is now off to Tokyo on the back of a Nations Cup win.
Sloan Allen is delighted with her link to Egypt Equestrian. “The sport there is slowly building, with a small equestrian community compared to European countries and Ireland.
“Sam and I have received so many incredible messages of support. It is a very big thing indeed for Egypt and I hope they bring back a medal.”
The story of Zorro is a dream of any equestrian family. Sloan Allen has had Zorro since she was six months old. “I competed her till she was seven years, then Sam took her on the next part of her journey. Getting to ride her every day and school her for him, means I have a unique insight into what it takes to get a horse to this level.
“We are a small family yard. To have a horse good enough to jump at the Olympics having raised her from six months old is a very emotional experience and a dream come true.”
Sameh will compete in the Samorin Show this week and then take in some events in England with the younger horses form Sycamore Farm.
Then the Prague Masters 12 million euro weekend beckons to round off 2019, as the Sycamore Stables sign off for Christmas in Templepatrick after another whirlwind year.