by Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
When former national showjumper Priya Selvam set her heart on I’m Incredible from a Facebook page of retired racehorses looking for a new home, she had absolutely no idea who he was.
It’s only later that she found out the thoroughbred she had chosen to reignite her passion for horseback riding was a Singapore Horse of the Year (2019) and multiple-Group winner at Kranji.
Not that it was hard to believe – regardless of the self-proclaiming moniker!
“I had no idea he was a champion racehorse, but there was definitely something special about him that caught Roshni’s eye and mine, anyway,” said Selvam whose sister is former Singapore Turf Club veterinary surgeon Dr Roshni Selvam, an accomplished dressage rider herself, and was actually the one who pushed her elder sister in dusting off her riding boots.
“Roshni and I grew up riding since we were kids. I started riding in 1985 when I was in Primary 5, and rode internationally as a showjumper, but I took a break from riding for 13 years.
“I’m a lawyer by training but I don’t practise anymore, I now work as Practice Manager to Roshni’s Equine Veterinary Practice. My three kids are now older, so I have a bit more time to return to riding.
“My youngest daughter Rania has a pony, Del Monte that Roshni saved from lameness, but as she’s growing up, I decided to look for another horse for her, but bigger.
“Roshni showed me the Facebook page. There were a lot of horses but we noticed just I’m Incredible.”
It was love at first sight, never mind if it was of the pixellated kind at first.
Just from his flawless conformation and glistening golden coat, the athletic chestnut oozed class and a charisma that outshone the other horses on the listing, and that was only from a photo.
An on-site visit with her sister to see the Lope De Vega six-year-old in the flesh at his former trainer Shane Baertschiger’s (always handy to also get some extra low-down on general mannerisms from the horse’s mouth!) stables was all it took to seal the deal.
Though I’m Incredible’s last race was only a couple of months old – which could suggest the racing fire in the belly was still burning - he radiated a majestic calm, both in his box and when a head collar was slipped on for a little trot-up.
“Roshni and her sister couldn’t believe how quiet he was. I’m Incredible has always been a very quiet horse, the perfect candidate for a second career in dressage,” said Baertschiger.
“He was one of the best horses I trained, he’s so genuine. From Kranji Stakes D, he went on to win three Group races, including the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup.
“Unfortunately his form nosedived after he did his fetlock in the Singapore Gold Cup (2019). He wasn’t the same horse and after discussing with (owner) Desmond (Ong), we decided to retire him.
“There were some offers from Malaysia, but we preferred he was rehomed here in Singapore. He couldn’t be in better hands.
“And I saw a picture Roshni sent me. He still looks like he could race!”
The Australian handler was upfront about the fetlock issues, but from a future equestrian career perspective, it was akin to selling a second-hand Porsche with a scratch on the paintwork.
A vet-sister running her eyes over couldn’t be a better safety net, but they still sought a second opinion before he was floated to his new home at the Singapore Polo Club.
“I checked his veterinary history and had a look at his X-rays and found his fetlock condition to be something that could be managed. I also checked on his history with Shane, and he’s more or less sound,” said Dr Selvam.
“Problem fetlocks can be treated through regenerative medicine. I can teach him to build his shoulders and pelvis.”
I’m Incredible not only had all the physical prerequisites down pat, but just as crucially, also had the ideal temperament for that 180 degree switch from barrelling around Kranji bends at 65kph to executing dainty piaffes and pirouettes in an arena!
“He has an amazing temperament, he’s very quiet. (STC head farrier) Paul Summers calls him a gentleman,” said Dr Selvam.
An even-tempered disposition is paramount with the family’s new four-legged pride and joy primarily meant for a 12-year-old, albeit it has also served as the premise for Selvam’s “born-again rider” drive with a touch of sibling persuasion.
“At first, Priya wasn’t sure as she’s not been riding for so long. I told her I would help her by retraining him so she can get her confidence back,” said Dr Selvam.
“Rania kept saying ‘do it, do it, mum’. When she finally went to see the horse, I could sense there was a connection from their eyes.
“My sister has a holistic approach as she’s into natural medicine. I also use in-hand training and classical dressage method.
“It’s my sister’s horse, but we do it together. I’m Incredible is definitely suitable for my sister.”
Having won several accolades in Singapore, Taiwan, Inner Mongolia, Hong Kong and in tournaments such as the FEI/Samsung International Showjumping, Selvam, 47, who is married to corporate lawyer Krishna Ramachandra, is all excited about turning back the clock.
Riding a horse again is after all like riding a bike, you never forget, and the bonus is she gets to groom her daughter, who studies at CHIJ Primary (Toa Payoh), into her footsteps, but the former legal eagle wanted to, first and foremost, give full credit to her sister for that leg-up back on her first love.
“I couldn’t have done it without Roshni. I needed her to be jointly involved, not just as an experienced rider but also tapping into her experience as a vet, especially physiologically,” said Selvam whose two elder sons Rohin, 19, and Sharad, 17, are both in boarding school in Scotland (Rohin just finished and will start National Service soon) have stopped riding to focus on football and athletics respectively.
“Roshni is using in-hand training to change the biomechanics of his body so that he grows muscles required for dressage work.
“Previously, she’s the one who rehabilitated a chronically lame pony, through exercise and building his strength. That pony was Del Monte who became Rania’s pony.
“Now she’s worked on I’m Incredible and the results are already showing. We thought it would take eight weeks for him to let down from the day we got him on July 9, but he took only one month.
“He’s a quick learner and is very smart, which he was already as a racehorse. Fingers crossed, he becomes a good dressage horse and maybe a showjumper, too, one day.”
Time will tell if the bespoke horse the Selvams got off the shelf turns out to be the complete package, but Dr Selvam does remember a bit of a divine sign they were onto a good thing when I’m Incredible arrived at the Singapore Polo Club.
“When the grooms looked up his racing record and found out he was a champion horse, they decided they had to buy 4D the next day,” she recalled.
“They picked 1301 as his MRA brand number is H301. Guess what, it came out as first prize!”
From one incredible tale to another, the Selvam sisters and little Rania Ramachandra could be in for an amazing journey as an exciting new chapter to I’m Incredible begins.
Bred by Patinack Farm, I'm Incredible was sold out of Curraghmore's draft for $260,000 during the Premier session of the 2016 National Yearling Sale. He won two trials in Australia under the name Miraculous Moment before being on-sold to Singapore interests.
* All photos courtesy of Priya Selvam.