Cooley Lands: the ‘ultimate’ five-star horse who provided his owner/rider with a ‘once-in-a-lifetime experience’ *H&H Plus*

  • This horse has been on the podium at five-star with Australian team rider Chris Burton, as well as competing with his owner, event horse agent Kate Walls. Pippa Roome meets him

    Need to know

    Cooley Lands
    Age: 13
    Breeding: Cavalier Land x Clover Hill
    Rider: Kate Walls and has also previously been ridden by Chris Burton
    Owner: Kate Walls, her husband Joe and Rob and Tricia Sargent
    Breeder: Peter Rice
    Greatest achievements: fifth Rockingham CCI3*-S 2015; second Camphire CCI3*-L 2015; fourth Le Lion seven-year-old championships 2015; first Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S 2017; eighth Boekelo CCI4*-L 2017; sixth Jardy Event Rider Masters CCI4*-S 2018; member of the Australian team at the World Equestrian Games 2018; third Badminton 2019 (pictured) (all with Chris Burton); seven top-20 placings in international competitions including third Weston Park CCI2*-L 2014 and 16th at Blair CCI4*-S 2019 (with Kate Walls). All class names updated to current levels.


    “I WAS in business with Piggy March when we bought ‘Cyril’ – or ‘Squirrel’, as we sometimes call him – from Richard Sheane at Cooley Farm, but Piggy didn’t have room for him when he first came over, so he came to me. I’m very much an amateur but I like having some nice horses around and he ended up staying.

    “We did young horse classes and were third in the CCI* [now CCI2*-L] at Weston. I’m not a quick cross-country rider so I went to Chris Burton for some training.

    “When Cyril was seven, I thought it’d be nice for him to go to Le Lion, so I asked Chris to ride him. He was fourth at Lion, losing the win only with a rail down, and well placed in both his qualification events. In the following years he won the eight- and nine-year-olds at Blenheim and went to the World Equestrian Games [WEG] in Tryon with Chris, but he lived with me and I competed him, too.

    “In the spring of 2019 I did Lincolnshire open intermediate and then, as I’d never had a horse who could be competitive at Badminton, I asked if Chris would like to take him. He said, ‘I’d love to – but he needs to be with me now,’ so I dropped him off. My dream was for him to complete but to be third was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    “You could hack Cyril after six months off and the worst he’d do is spook at a leaf, but he’s different coming out of the start box. I ride him in a pelham and find him incredibly strong.

    “He’s back with me now as my schoolmaster. I loved watching him with Chris, who is such a talented rider, but the horse is my pet and I love looking after him. He lives in a herd and has a miniature Shetland. I have his three-year-old full brother too now.”

    Chris Burton

    “CYRIL really grew on me – he’s not flashy, but he’s a trier and beautifully bred on old Irish lines. He’s a compact little horse, with good conformation. The thing that really sells him is a video Richard Sheane has of him free schooling over cross-country fences – I’ve never seen a horse hunt for his fences more.

    “He’s a strong little horse and wants to gallop. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden a horse with so much turn of foot – and I used to ride thoroughbreds in Australia. At WEG, he made the time with 20 penalties when he spooked at the first water and at Badminton [pictured], I could have gone faster in any minute if I’d wanted to. In the showjumping he’s very careful with perfect technique.

    “I’m grateful to Kate for letting me ride him as I know it was hard for her to hand over her baby. It’s testament to the horse that he was third at Badminton considering how little time we spent together.”


    “I BOUGHT Cooley Lands at Goresbridge September Sales – I think he was the highest-priced three-year-old and I gave €18,500 [around £16,000] for him. I was in buying other horses and only saw him jump one fence, but he was a beautiful horse – so light and so blood, a great type, a great mover.

    “He was halfway through being broken in when Kate and Piggy saw him and I kept him and did some work on cross-country with him before he went over to Kate. He was sharp, but always trainable, always wanting to do the job. He kept all those attributes from day one – he was always so athletic on the banks and ditches and found the difficult questions easy.”

    “He’s the ultimate horse that you hope people want to come and buy from Ireland, in the sense he’s so blood and brave and a real good operator. I try to keep up with all the horses I sell and he’s been a real flagship horse for us. The year he won the eight- and nine-year-old and Cooley Cross Border won the CCI3* [now CCI4*-L] at Blenheim was one of the biggest days in Cooley world.”

    This feature can also be read in this week’s Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 29 April

    You may also be interested in…