An event horse who “hated dressage so much he used to tie up” has found his forte in a new career showjumping.
Controe, who evented to two-star level with Laura Collett, was bought by Peter Charles last year and was recently ridden to a four-star grand prix victory in Vejer De La Frontera by his son Harry.
Originally imported from Germany, the 16hh gelding was sold to Laura by Alan Fazakerly as a four-year-old, because he “was so dinky”. He was then bought by one of Laura’s owners Karen Bartlett.
“‘Conker’ is such a cutie,” said Karen. “I bought him to event but he hated the dressage so much, bless him, that he used to tie up.
“He was fine at home but as soon as he was at an event and saw the white boards he’d have a problem. It was bizarre — he is so talented.”
The “pocket rocket” bay had to be helped through the seven-year-old championships at Le Lion with fluids and he also tied up at Hartpury 2*.
“I am on the committee for Blenheim and I told Laura to bring him there and we’d get vet Tom Campbell from Bourton Vale to take his bloods and monitor what happened to him at an event. He was fine travelling but the minute he saw the boards his heart and bloods went bad,” Karen explained.
As he had competed up to one-star level without issue, Karen still tried to find if there was a physical problem affecting the horse and sent him to Rossdales for tests.
“They didn’t find anything — it was all in his head,” she said. “As it had got more serious in the dressage he just thought ‘I hate this’.”
Both Laura and Karen were keen to give Conker every opportunity, so tried a season showjumping with him. The horse thrived on the change of role, finishing fifth in the silver league final at last year’s Horse of the Year Show.
“Laura found it difficult to fit in the showjumping with her eventing commitments, so we decided to put him on the market,” said Karen. “When we told Yogi Breisner (who Laura trains with) that we’d decided to stop eventing him and go showjumping, he said it was like saying to your son that he’ll never have to do maths ever again! Out jumping he’s the happiest little horse.”
‘He beat me today and I couldn’t be happier about that’
Laura Collett made a winning return to competition this weekend with Noble Bestman at Wellington
World, Paralympic and European medallist Ricky Balshaw (pictured) is coming out of retirement to take on the new discipline along
Eventer Emily Llewellyn introduced Karen to Peter Charles as she thought Conker might suit one of his daughters, Scarlett or Sienna.
“We thought because he was small he’d be ideal for them but when Harry got together with him it was just such a partnership. I went to see them jump at Liverpool and they are just brilliant,” Karen added.
“Harry is also great at sending us texts and videos when he wins — it was incredible to see his jump-off in the 4* grand prix at Vejer. I thought he was just going to keep him as a speed horse, so I thought ‘wowzers, that’s big!”
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