He might be the best show jumper in the world right now, but at home Hello Sanctos is still a horse who needs all the basic care and a lot of love. And Hana Colman is the one who provides that for the bay gelding.
Colman is just 22, but she’s earned a spot taking care of the world No. 1 jumper rider Scott Brash’s top horses and she’s also in a relationship with Brash. Together, they’re traveling the world, winning at the most glamorous horse shows and bringing out the best in some of the most talented horses.
“I love looking at the stamps in my passport! All the different visas... China and Doha and everywhere. It's really amazing to go to all these places,” Colman said. “Every show is amazing. Aachen always sticks out to me, because it's the most incredible place. Miami was very cool, but every show is different. But then again, the same people are there and all the shows are very nice. There's not very often you'd say 'I don't want to come back here.”
Colman grew up in Sussex, England, and was horse-crazy from the beginning. “My mum's side of the family was always really involved in horses in Ireland, so they chucked me into the deep end and put me on a horse and took me hunting. I loved it, so when I was a bit older, I'd ride at my friends' farms,” Colman said.
She started being a “barn rat” type at four-star eventer Sharon Hunt’s farm as a teenager. “I was there just to pick the fields and muck out. Eventually I was allowed to do more, and then I started doing weekends around school. I stayed there for about two years, when I was 14 and 15,” Colman recalled. “I got to go to some day shows, to hold horses or poo-pick the lorry. It was the time Sharon was going to the [Olympic Games in Hong Kong] and it was a really big deal.”
At age 16, Colman went to college studying equine studies. “They opened a lot of doors for me. I went and worked on the Sunshine Tour for Tim Hoster, and that was all through my lecturer, Claire Farmer, who organized everything for me,” Colman said. “In between college, I worked for Tim and Tonia Brown, who produce young horses. I spent some holidays there, and they drilled me into being clean and tidy. They had a really big impact on who I am now.”
After she graduated from college, Colman went to Germany for a more permanent position with Hoster, a German rider on the rise. “I learned a load of stuff there. They were very good to me, she said. “We had loads of horses and I was chucked in at the deep end, but it was good. When I look at that and then look at what I'm doing now, it's completely different. Then, I'd have six or seven horses on my own going to show, and now I can spend as much time with two horses because it's a bit different.”
From there, she took up freelancing for different riders until in 2012 a friend mentioned that Brash was in need of some help at a few shows.
It was just after the London Olympic Games, where Brash had helped the British team win gold. “He needed a groom for two shows, and he said 'We'll just see how it goes.' So my first show was Estoril and Sanctos was second in the Global [Champions Tour grand prix]. Then my second show, Sanctos was third in the Global, so things went well,” Colman said.
“I was so nervous. He rang me up and said, ‘Can you come this day and the horse will be there this day and I'll be there this day.’ I got there on a Wednesday, Scott left on Thursday, and we were leaving on the Saturday for the show. I’d just met the horses, and Scott said, ‘Oh yeah, can you clip him, and there’s the lorry and I’ll see you at Estoril. Here’s my car.’ But we made it to Estoril and it worked out really well,” she recalled.
What’s the key to taking care of the best horse in the world? You can find out more in the Chronicle'sBehind The Stall Door With: Hello Sanctos article, but Colman said there’s no great secret. “Everything’s so simple. There’s nothing we do that’s ‘Maybe this’ll work,’ it’s all just simple and basic. The horses come first,” she said.
Two years ago, Brash and Colman moved from just a working relationship to a romantic one as well. “As a boss, he’s very good. I think when he trusts someone, he trusts them 100 percent, and that makes a good boss,” she said.
“[The relationship] wouldn't work with a normal person. It’s a funny old thing we do, really. I think it has to be someone who understands it all. Our schedule is never the same,” she said.
But Brash is more than happy to chip in with barn chores. “If I am going to be working late, he'll stay and help. His family are real workers. When I first visited, his dad would be up at 9 or 10 at night, still harrowing arenas or changing the jumps or cutting the grass. They're not in the house watching TV,” she said.
“I think Scott grew up like that, and he's the same. I think that's why he's so good. I personally believe that's why he's done what he's done. When he was younger, he'd take 10 horses to a show by himself and he'd ride as much as he could to help pay for everything.”
And while jet-setting around the world’s exotic locations with only a few weekends at home each year can invite something of a party lifestyle, Colman has left any late nights in the clubs behind. “When I was younger, I had a lot of fun, but now I hate feeling tired the next morning and I would so much rather feel good and look after my horses,” she said.
“When you're tired, it definitely wears off on the horses, because you might be a bit sharper with them and little things like that make a big difference. Especially with horses like M'Lady, she's a bit quirky and if you come into the stables in a right bad mood, she'd be worse. I'm looking after the best animals in the world. They deserve to have me at my best.”
Like every good groom, Colman has her own quirks, and it’s good Brash has Horseware as a sponsor since she likes her horses very well dressed. “I’m totally obsessed with rugs [blankets]. They all have to be matching, with show stuff and home stuff,” she said with a laugh.