The horse pictured: Sunstar’s Calvados (Jim)

January 1, 2023

Our horses and ponies play a leading role in the sport of driving. In the “Horse in Picture” series, we tell the story of a horse or pony that deserves to be in the spotlight.

Sunstar’s tough little Calvados (Jim) is the foundation of Melanie Van de Bont’s driving career. A stable, unassuming and sometimes stubborn gelding ensured that Melanie was able to move up to Class 3. He then competed in all very successful World Championships (12th, 4th, silver medal) and contributed to the gold medal at the National Championships for Z-class pony pairs in 2018, 2019 and 2021. He also became Champion Pony Dressage at Hippiade in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2021, always with scores above 70%. He achieved all of the above accomplishments with half of his sight. Jim lost his left eye in 2017.

After all the successes, you might think that Jim (against Oldenzijlster Action Man) is already of age and ready to retire, but nothing could be further from the truth. The 13-year-old won the International 3-Star competition in Cronenberg this year and will be a reserve pony for the World Championships in 2023, should Melanie’s little Storm (Sandro) not get ready in time. In addition, in 2023, Jim will compete in dressage skills alongside young ponies and with partner Melanie Esther Boddy.

Stable dressage horse

Jim is a versatile player, but how did he end up with Melanie Van de Bont? Hoefnet contacted Melanie for the story.
“Jim came to me in October 2014. I was driving with two Foxes at the time and wanted to move up to Class 3,” says Melanie. “The ponies I’ve ridden were enthusiastic and very good at the marathon, but the dressage had to be better. That’s why I was looking for a pony who would bring peace and stability to the team and could promote dressage. Through cross I ended up with Jim. He was 5 at the time “Years, he’s been taught and the basics are done. He had a little experience but he was well oriented and his personality was exactly what I was looking for.”

Melanie trained him further in the winter of 2014-2015 and took him to dressage and cone competitions during the 2015 outdoor season. At the start of the 2016 outdoor season, Melanie debuted with Jim and Noaberhoeve’s Exclusive (Noran) and Rotgers Xander (Sylvester) in Lisieux, France. That year, they competed in more international competitions, so they could gain experience.

C in training


2017 started badly. “In early January we discovered precancerous spots on one of Jim’s nostrils. He underwent surgery but soon after noticed he was slowly going blind.” Before the first world championship in Minden, where they took 12th place, Jim was almost completely blind. “He got a smear over his eye. In Minden, his eye actually saw white, and it was strange to see. We don’t know how this happened. According to the vet, a fly in his eye could cause an infection. Anyway, it was totally bad luck. And if it didn’t That wasn’t enough, Jim also developed precancerous spots on his other nose after the World Cup. His eye was also removed during the operation. The stress and uncertainty that came with it was terrible. Jim was – and still is – my best pony, but because of these ups and downs he also became my child which is a problem.”

Even though Jim can’t see anything on his left side now, it doesn’t get in the way of the sport. “If this happened with one of my other ponies, I don’t know if they had a sporting career. But with Jim, he’s such a cool frog. He thinks everything’s right and despite the fact he can’t see anything on the left, he He prefers to be on the left side of the team, because then he can see his friend, who he takes with him.

Jim prefers to be on the left
Photo: Photoworks

Extend your favorite part

Jim would rather be lazy than tired. Melanie has run several marathons with him, but after a couple of hitches, Jim calls it a day. Jim brings peace, stability and confidence to the team. The way he communicates that to his ponies next door is unprecedented, but when it comes to work he prefers to leave it to his friends. Although he thinks ‘the show’ is cool. Sometimes he just isn’t sharp enough. while loosening, but when we go into the dressage gates and let him stretch (his favorite part) he turns into a rocket! Skill-wise he always gets along well with his teammate.”

Melanie has to take a few extra things into consideration because Jim can no longer see left: “It’s become more important that I lead him to the hand. When I have good mouth contact I can guide him better. Plus, I have to be more careful about restrain him clearly, so as not to fall on his shoulder. Otherwise we can sometimes fall into a corner rather quickly; of course, he does not always see where he is going. It is also important to warn him with the hand and with the farrier, for example before raising his left foot. With his bridle, he instantly concentrates and is not afraid of anything.

Stretching is Jim’s favorite part
Photo: Kristina Horvath


But what does Jim mean to Melanie?
“Everything! Yes, without him I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. He made sure I could move up to class 3 and then internationally. He has proven his services in all the World Championships, National Championships and Hippiades and he is a champion in training young colts.”

Jim will be a stand-by for the young pony Melanie wants to ride in the World Cup in Auerschot next year and will start in dressage. “I’ve noticed lately that he’s been having less fun in tests. In addition, the ponies he’s standing next to are a larger size, which makes him the little guy at 1.17m. C. You have more fun with dressage and competitions of skill with the little ponies, and from Here comes the switch.

“He’s had a great international career and he’s definitely not retiring from competitions. His highlight in international sport was the World Cup in Kesper Aszar, Hungary. There he ran dressage and cones and we won silver on Sunday by one second over gold. That was amazing.”

Jim (Sunstar’s Calvados)

Publishing rights reserved. Reproduction without attribution and permission via [email protected] Not allowed.

Leave a Comment