First & Last: Faerie Dianimo

Jonelle Price talks about the beautiful and feisty little mare, known at home as Maggie May, who is quickly becoming New Zealand eventing’s next super star

Jonelle and Faerie Dianimo (aka Maggie May) storming around Chatsworth (Image: Libby Law)
Jonelle and Faerie Dianimo (aka Maggie) storming around Chatsworth (Image: Libby Law)

When did you first…see her?

When Tim and I first came to the UK we were based with David and Jacky Green, who remain great friends of ours. Maggie was bred by Trisha Rickards to be a dressage horse for Jacky but it became clear fairly early on that she was not going to be right for Jacks! They began breaking her in, but she started getting her rider off, so Jacks rang and asked if she could drop her to Tim for a week. Tim, being the fairly laid-back character that he is, doesn’t really listen to the stories – he just gets on and assesses the horse himself. They dropped her off and Maggie was an angel. Each day he rode her and we’d comment how cute she was. She was a really natural jumper from day one. After the week was up, we took her back and of course Jacks was slightly mortified to hear what an angel she’d been. Tim took her out to the arena to show what he’d been doing, but he’d barely got a leg over and was on the floor. You can imagine Tim’s shock and their delight. It still amuses me as this really does sum up her character – she is very calculated!

(Image: Libby Law)
Butter wouldn’t melt… (Image: Libby Law)

What did you think when you first…sat on her?  

Angela Mace produced her as a four- and five-year-old. She won the Burghley Young Event Horse as a five-year-old and came to me at the start of her six-year-old year, which was when I first sat on her. She was quite naughty and very sharp when she wanted to be. Because she had been difficult, and Angela was a brave but novice rider, there were a few issues that they had perhaps not confronted, so the first year was certainly not smooth sailing. She didn’t like the leg and would simply kick out – with venom. She was pretty wild and you would have to pick your battles. Well, you’d head into the battle but at some point you’d fear for your safety and have to rethink the situation! The breakthrough only came last year when she turned eight – it was fairly turbulent up till then. It still is, but nothing like those first few years. Jumping-wise she had a bit of a stop in her in the early days. It wasn’t nasty, but she was so sharp and careful that she would resort to it occasionally. I haven’t really had many horses that stop, so it did take me a long time to trust her and not to override her to a fence, and likewise for her to trust me, as putting her faith in somebody else was not her strong point. It’s hard to imagine now as she fights so hard to leave a fence up from any given situation.  

On her way to fourth at Pau in her first four-star in 2014 (Image: Libby Law)
On her way to fourth at Pau in her first four-star in 2014 (Image: Libby Law)

When did you first…realise you had found something special?

Jacks is still very involved with her and she will tell you it was right from the very start. For me, it was probably not until 2014. She is so tiny, so petite, I found it really hard to visualise her jumping around these enormous tracks where the fences are bigger than her. I always knew she was incredibly talented, more so than anything else I’d had. The things she can do over a fence are like nothing I’ve ever felt before. She is so agile and intelligent, but it still takes something else to be a 4* horse and I probably only appreciated that in her when she stepped up.

What is the first…word you would use to describe her?

Intense.

What is the last…thing she’ll let you do?

Anything on my terms!

Tough, fast, brave and smart: she's the real deal (Image: Libby Law)
Tough, fast, brave and smart: she’s the real deal (Image: Libby Law)

What is the first thing she does…when she’s turned out?

She lives out the majority of the time, so is very relaxed in the paddock – she’ll just meander off.

When did you last…have a major disappointment with her?

At Saumur CCI3* last spring. She fell at a straightforward cross-country fence at the eight-minute mark having left a front leg. I just couldn’t get my head around it as she is so sharp. The following morning she was coughing, so I ran some bloods and she was rather sick with a virus. Any other horse probably wouldn’t have gone that far, and it did explain why she was the quietest she’d ever been in the dressage!

What is her first…reaction to a big crowd?

She loves a crowd and thinks it’s her time to sparkle. Because she’s so hot, people expect her to be a nightmare in a big atmosphere, but she’s quite the opposite, and rises to the occasion. 

She's pretty fancy on the flat! (Image: Libby Law)
She’s pretty fancy on the flat, especially on a big occasion! (Image: Libby Law)

When did she last…disgrace herself?  

She is too dignified for that!

When did you last..fall off her?  

At Saumur. Surprisingly I’ve only come off her twice, both when she’s fallen on cross-country. As a six-year-old she jumped much too bravely into a water fence and couldn’t land it; we both got a proper soaking.

When did she last…give you a sleepless night?  

Never any sleepless nights, but she keeps me on my toes wondering what she’s got in store for me next. At Blenheim we got two-thirds of the way through our dressage test, having done the most beautiful trot and walk work to date. Just as I started to think how relaxed she was feeling, she stopped, kicked out and we were facing in the opposite direction!

What is first…on your list of ambitions for her?  

A medal at Rio.

What can’t she live without?

Jumping and galloping.

If she hadn’t made it in eventing, she would have been…

She could do anything, but it’s whether she would have been satisfied doing it. 

She lives for galloping and jumping (Image: Libby Law)
She lives for galloping and jumping (Image: Libby Law)

What you didn’t know about Faerie Dianimo

  • She is lethal on the arena with other horses. If they come within 5m of her, she aims and fires and they are in serious jeopardy of losing a limb! Needless to say she wears a red ribbon at all times, but she looks so sweet people don’t take her seriously – she had victims at both Aachen and Pau last year.
  • Her party trick is her medium trot – Jonelle says it’s not quite there yet but it will be.
  • Jonelle and Tim have Maggie’s whole family – not full siblings, but half-siblings out of the same mare. Tim has two brothers: Xavier Faer who is just stepping up to Advanced, and the younger Faerie Fifty Shades. Tim also broke in a two-year-old filly last winter and Trisha has a yearling at home. All except Maggie are huge, around 17hh, and couldn’t be more different from her, says Jonelle.

Fun Facts 

Stable name:  Maggie May
Age: 11
Height: 16hh
Breed: GB sport horse
Sire: Dimaggio
Dam: Faerie Dazzler
Owner/breeder: Trisha Rickards
Best results: 2nd CCI4* Luhmühlen 2015, 1st 8/9-year-old Championships Blenheim 2014; 4th CCI4* Pau 2014
2014 TITLE WINNER: NZL-Jonelle Price (FAERIE DIANIMO) FINAL-1ST: CIC3* 8&9YO: PRIZEGIVING: 2014 GBR-Blenheim Palace International Horse Trial (Sunday 14 September) CREDIT: Libby Law COPYRIGHT: LIBBY LAW PHOTOGRAPHY - NZL
Prizegiving at Blenheim Palace in 2014, when she won the CCI3* for 8-9YO (Image: Libby Law)