With the World Equestrian Games fast-approaching, one of the many riders in the final stage of preparations is British-based Australian showjumper Rowan Willis.
The 38-year-old looks set to make his championship debut in USA next month as part of the four-man Australian team. But what makes his story even more remarkable is that he will be riding a 10-year-old mare he says is virtually unrideable outside the competition ring.
His chestnut mare Blue Movie was bred by Sue Welch and is out of Nick Skelton’s top ride Showtime, by Chacco Blue.
“She’s certainly tricky — she’s taken a long time to produce, and she’s still not easy, but we seem to manage,” Rowan told H&H.
“She’s actually quite laid-back and very easy in the ring, but not when you ride her at home.
“I take her hacking a lot, but I usually lead her off [my other horse, and Blue Movie’s half-brother] Shark. If I do ride her, I’ll just walk for an hour or so, maybe with a little bit of trot, but we don’t do flatwork as such — that doesn’t exist in her schedule.
“And we can’t jump her at all at home — she just gets totally wound up and we both end up in a complete state. So we ignore all that, do a couple of practice fences in the warm-up then go straight in the ring. I don’t think she’ll ever change!”
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Rowan worked for Sue Welch and her husband Fred for 14 years when he first moved to England and spotted Blue Movie’s potential right from the start.
“I had a good feeling about her from the start and I tried to buy her right from when she was a foal,” says Rowan. “She was always on the ball and aware of everything, so I knew she’d be very careful. She’s very strong and powerful, too. And she’s got fantastic genes!”
You can read the full interview with Rowan Willis in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound, out Thursday 9 August.