Behind the Stable Door with Mike Winter

Our brand ambassador Mike Winter is no stranger to the international eventing circuit, having represented his native Canada in three-day eventing at Olympic and Pan American Games. Following running a successful equestrian business in the United States for 15 years, Mike and his wife Emma relocated to England in 2009 and founded Wayfarer Eventing in the heart of the Cotswolds. Together they specialise in the production of quality event horses for sale and competition, as well as offering a world class training facility for the public to use.

Now, some twelve years since his last Olympics in Beijing 2008, Mike has set his sights on the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics in 2021 with a horse called El Mundo. “Roberto”, as he is known to his friends, is a horse we have followed with great interest here at ADM Protexin as he is part owned by our very own Equine Director, Jonathan Nelson, alongside Mike and Emma. We catch up with Mike who talks us through the process of sourcing and producing a horse to Olympic level, as well as some of the setbacks he encountered along the way.

Mike and El Mundo at Houghton International 2019

When you sourced El Mundo, what characteristics and conformational traits stood out as a potential top-level event horse?
“We purchased El Mundo ('Roberto' - named after previous employee and good friend from Mexico) early in his 6-year-old year as a relatively green horse, from Dani Evans. We had shown him to a customer and when he became her second choice, we snapped him up even though Emma and I had never sat on him. Although he was very green for his age, his uphill conformation and very forward attitude (bolting) drew us to him as a potential top-level event horse.”

What piece of advice would you give to anyone producing an event horse from the start?
“So much of what we do requires trainability and good balance, which includes a forward attitude. So, picking a horse with a good forward-thinking trainable mind, with uphill balance and conformation must be key factors in the selection of any event horse at any level.”

At what point in El Mundo’s career did you really start to believe you had a world-class horse?
“I think I knew he had to have top potential when he broke his leg soon after purchasing him and I thought we could never sell him!”

El Mundo is now competing at the highest level in the sport, have you encountered many setbacks along the way?
“As I said he broke his leg in his first season with us and required several months cross tied in his stable with the family sleeping by his side, followed by almost a year of box rest. So his first full season of eventing wasn’t until he was an 8-year-old.”

How do you think horses will adapt to the climate in Tokyo and what preparations will horse and rider need to undergo beforehand?
“Although there are a few different approaches to competing in unfamiliar conditions, I believe certain athletes suit different types of venues. I think it's quite simple in this case. Horses that struggle in a big atmosphere will struggle at big championships with large crowds and big stadiums. Equally, horses that struggle with endurance, will struggle more with an endurance test in extreme heat and humidity.”

Since your last Olympic Games in 2008 in Beijing, how do you think you have developed as a rider and competitor?
“Since the last Olympics I rode in 2008 I have made many life, training and business changes. The choice to move to England has increased my exposure to top competitions, top riders, different training and competitive attitudes and very importantly an appreciation and access to horses with top-level potential.”

What will be your game plan in Spring 2021 as Team Canada prepares for the Tokyo Olympics?
“We are doing our best during this difficult time to focus on things we don’t always have as much time for as we would like. I have been revisiting a lot of basics that will hopefully add great value when we begin to train and compete again, looking towards final preparations for Tokyo, whenever that starts again.”

What would you describe as your secret weapon?
“Sticky saddle spray, I guess as I get older it hurts a lot more if I fall off!”

What are your favourite Protexin Equine Premium products?
“We use the entire line of Protexin Equine Premium products because I think it’s important to get the right combination for each individual horse, but the standout product for us is Quick Fix. Every single horse leaving for a competition from the yard getting on the lorry gets a Quick Fix. I think is important to maintain their gut health during a stressful change in their schedule, like travel and competition.”

The old saying is no foot no horse, but it is also true to say no gut no horse. What steps do you take to look after an event horse’s guts whilst travelling and away at a competition?
“No gut no horse, that’s a really interesting statement! As we know horses thrive from routine; a regular feeding schedule, regular turnout and regular riding. This is really difficult for the competition horse and therefore it’s really important to manage their gut and digestive health when competing and throughout their training schedule."

Thank you, Mike, from all of us here at Protexin Equine Premium we wish you and your team the best of luck as you prepare for a very exciting 2021!