Irish-bred, the 10-year-old Shear H20 is by Stan The Man out of a Carnival King mare.
His potential was spotted by former Olympic show jumper, Rowland Fernyhough, at Millstreet’s popular three-year-old loose jumping final.
“He was a great stamp with plenty of blood about him. He had good conformation, nice paces and an athletic jump,” says Rowland.
“He was always a genuine horse who loved his work. We did a little bit of show jumping with him and then tried him over afew cross-country fences and he never turned a hair.”
At this time, Leslie Law was looking for a good young horse for Jeremy Lawton, managing director of Leslie’s long-time sponsor, Shearwater Insurance.
When Rowland made that all-important telephone call telling him about the horse, Leslie didn’t need asking twice and it did not take him long to make up his mind that the horse, known as Solo, would be joining his string.
Leslie and Shear H20 made a winning start to their eventing career the spring of 1995, a pre-novice victory at Stilemans preceding novice placings at Moreton Morrell, Stonar School and Hartpury.
“He took to it all very well and moved up the grades with barely a hiccup. Even as a youngster, I knew that I could ride with confidence to arrowheads and corners. Nothing has changed, except that the fences have got bigger and more technical.”
As part of his education, Shear H20 took part in the Burghley Young Event horse series, finishingthird in the final as a five-year-old. More success followed in 1996 and that October, Leslie thought that Shear H20 was ready for his first two-star CCI at Pau, France.
Shear H2O continued to make good progress. In 1997, the pair earned a whole host of good placings, with the £1,000 first prize in the advanced section at Lulworth putting the icing on the cake The following year, they stepped up into three-star action at Punchestown, Luhmuhlen and Achselschwang.
So far, everythinghad gone according to plan and Leslie was feeling justifiably proud of Shear H2O’s record.
“This was the first horse I had ever produced from scratch and it was, and still is, a huge thrill for me.”
But their Badminton debut in 1999 was to prove a setback, as the mud and rain that year took its toll.
“We were very late to go and all his enthusiasm disappeared as we slogged through the mud on the steeplechase course.”
Shear H20 bounced back in the best possible style five weeks later when registering his first three-star win at Bramham.Barely two months later, the pair was at Burghley.
“He really ate up that course and, apart from an unlucky glance-off at the podium fences, he was foot-perfect. That’swhen I knew that I had a true four-star horse and, from then on, hopes were high.”
Well and truly laying their Badminton ghosts to rest, Leslie and Shear H20 set out as pathfinders over the Duke of Beaufort’s estate in spring this year. They produced a copybook round and finished within the optimum time.
Shear H20 ultimately earned second place and earned his place on the Olympic short-list.
“He fills me with so much confidence. It doesn’t matter how high or wide the fences are, he rarely touches one. All the way through, we’ve worked on our dressage with Chris Bartle and, over the years, we’ve got his paces more elevated.
“Solo’s a real fidget at competitions. Yet, when we get inside that dressage arena, he’s as solid as a rock in halt and stands rooted to the spot.
“I’m very lucky to be riding a horse who I trust implicitly. He’s honest, brave and careful and is a great competitor. I wouldn’t change a thing about him. He’s a great friend to me.”