Move over Morecambe and Wise, Ant and Dec, Simon and Garfunkel — in the equestrian world at least, Ben Maher and Explosion W have fast become one of the greatest partnerships of our time.
In this week’s Horse & Hound (out Thursday 23 January), you can read some exclusive insights into what makes the “over-achieving” chestnut gelding tick from his groom, Cormac Kenny, his breeder Willy Wijnen and of course Ben Maher himself.
But how did it all begin for this phenomenal duo?
“One of my best friends in Holland lived in the same village as Explosion’s breeder,” says Ben. “He’d seen Explosion at a couple of shows as a six-turning-seven-year-old and when he came to visit me in Florida he said ‘You have to see this horse’ and showed me a video.”
Ben organised to fly to the Netherlands and firstly tried Explosion alongside a few other horses.
“He’d only done local shows but had a very good clear round record,” says Ben. “I then flew back to try him myself in a different arena and he felt very good. He’s always been extremely careful and what really struck me was the really good way he had of moving his body.
“It’s difficult when they’re only seven years old because you never know where they’re going to end up and we [Poden Farms] wouldn’t have bought him if he hadn’t been jumping so well.”
After arriving in Great Britain, Explosion W was produced for Poden Farms largely by Emily Mason and Carly Anthony.
“It’s a demanding programme so it’s hard for me to do the younger horses as well,” says Ben. “So he was developed for a year and a half under our stable jockeys, but always in our programme — we keep in control of what shows he goes to and what he does. Then he came to Florida when he was nine years old, did two months of competition and at a bigger level [with Emily Mason] then I took him to my first show at that point on him.”
‘Further down the line he could become one of the best showjumpers in the world’
If you want to keep up with the latest from the equestrian world without leaving home, grab a H&H subscription
That first show in April 2018 was the five-star Longines Global Champions Tour of Shanghai, where they won a speed class by nearly two seconds and went on to finish second in the grand prix.
“Even at that stage, he always jumped clear and he was always naturally fast — he just needed developing a little at that level, at that height of jumps, and to have some exposure to all the travel that he would have to deal with,” says Ben. “But it didn’t take him long — from a results-perspective anyway. He very quickly picked it all up and understood what his life would be.”
And the rest, as they say, his history.
Would you like to read Horse & Hound’s independent journalism without any adverts? Join Horse & Hound Plus today and you can read all articles on completely ad-free