Meet the part-Clydesdale showjumper ‘living his best life’ aged 30

  • Meet Wilson, the half-Clydesdale who is “living his best life” as he continues to showjump his enthusiastic way across Scotland aged 30.

    Jonathan Bagg, who has owned the 17.1hh half-thoroughbred gelding for 25 years, told H&H he has been pulled up by British Showjumping (BS) judges as they struggle to believe how old Wilson is.

    “I’ve been pulled in twice to check his age as they couldn’t believe what they were seeing,” he said. “They said they needed to check he was the right horse as he looked amazing.”

    Jonathan only registered Wilson, formally Wilson II, with BS five years ago.

    “I work in the industry; I’m international sales manager for NAF and in this and previous jobs in the industry I’ve travelled extensively so he wasn’t ridden to his full potential for a long time; we did unaffiliated and riding club,” Jonathan said. “My first year doing BS, we aimed for the Aintree amateur and veteran championships, which is a phenomenal show, and we’ve been chasing that dream ever since. He just wants to keep going.”

    Jonathan and Wilson are under the guidance of Fiona Flynn, his instructor of over 30 years whose family ran the riding school Jonathan rode at before that.

    Fiona sang Jonathan’s praises for his dedication to Wilson, citing the time and effort he puts in, early in the morning and late at night to ensure his horse is happy and healthy. She sent H&H pictures she had taken of the pair, which “show Wilson’s joy”.

    “When he goes ‘up the gears’, to the untrained eye there’s no difference, but although the rhythm stays the same, the power Wilson puts in makes a huge difference,” she said.

    “We both laugh because, at Wilson’s age, he has earned the right to be a little cheeky and so full of enthusiasm and excitement, we just contain it enough to keep him safe. In Wilson’s mind he is still 10-ish and we want him to continue to feel and think like that for as long as possible, but we protect him from his own enthusiasm!”

    Jonathan agreed, adding: “He’s extremely enthusiastic. He hates flatwork with a passion; as soon as the poles have gone, he’s ‘I’m really not interested any more’.

    “He’s always been on a joint and a muscle supplement – I work for NAF so I’m a great believer – and he’s only got about three teeth left so he has lots of hard food but he’s ok with grass and goes out for 10 to 12 hours a day.”

    Jonathan said he sticks to jumping 85-90cm “and he only gets to do one class” a day, in deference to Wilson’s years, but added that were Wilson asked to jump bigger tracks, “I might be scared, but he would certainly do it!”

    “We were jumping on Friday and Saturday last weekend, then hacked on Monday,” he said. “We were with two horses 20 years younger than him, and he out-walked them.

    “He’s reliving his youth; we didn’t really do it when he was younger, and when we did go to shows I had no transport so we hacked there and back. Very old-fashioned but it seems to have worked. And as soon as he doesn’t want to do it any more, that’ll be him finished. He’s never been ridden in spurs, he’s always taken me to a fence, but if he felt halfway through a class that he’d had enough, I’d retire him there and then. It’s completely on his terms; it usually is on his terms, although that’s about trying to slow him down!”

    Jonathan described Wilson as “one of the kindest horses you’ll ever meet”, who is “amenable to everything” and adored by the woman in her mid to late 60s who looks after him in Jonathan’s absence.

    “I’m 47 now and I know everyone says it but he is literally the horse of my lifetime, and he’s been there as my friend all that time,” he said. “I’m exceptionally lucky; he owes me nothing and I owe him everything.

    “One BS judge announced at the end of his round: ‘Wilson is living his best life’, and that sums him up’.”

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