Rowan Willis: No better place to produce horses *H&H Plus*


  • I made my first visit to Liverpool International Horse Show and I am pleasantly surprised at what a good show it is. The location is great, the layout makes everything very easy for us and the crowds have been excellent — it’s always nice to jump in front of a full house.

    We need more of these shows in Britain; the country has some of the best horses and riders, and the shows here used to be great, but the rest of the world has gone ahead and Britain has rather been left behind.


    I lived in the UK for 20 years — I was based with Fred and Sue Welch for 14 of those — so although I’ve been based in North America for the past two years, I always like coming back here. I came over to Europe for Geneva in December, and wanted to do a British show as I haven’t ridden here since Windsor in May, so Liverpool fitted the bill.

    I brought a new ride, Cartouch II, whom I bought from Mark Turnbull in September — he jumped very well for third in a 1.50m class — and Diablo VII, whom I jumped in the grand prix and whom I bought from Ben Maher in March and own with Lucinda Huddy.

    Higher entries, higher rewards

    The prize money at Liverpool was good for Britain, but it is so much better in North America. For example, I’m jumping in a CSI4* grand prix over there at the end of January for $210,000 (£160,000), with two other $70,000 classes on the card.

    The entries are higher there, though, and I strongly believe Britain is a much better place to produce a young horse. I like the smaller agricultural shows here that get the horses used to jumping on grass and to having lots going on around them; they aren’t just in a standard all-weather arena with nothing to break their concentration.

    I now go to Florida for the next three months. I am aiming my top horse Blue Movie, who was bred in Britain by the Welches, at the World Cup Final in Las Vegas in April. We were part of the Australian team that finished sixth at the World Equestrian Games in 2018, but I still have very little experience at championships, so I thought the World Cup Final, which follows a similar format to a championship, would be good preparation for us ahead of Tokyo.

    I’m coming back to England in May and jumping at Windsor, and Wellington in Hampshire is holding its first CSI2* show a week later which I’d like to support — I’ve bred and own two horses with Wellington’s owners, Lord and Lady Mornington, including Wellington Grandorie, who was eight-year-old champion at Spruce Meadows last summer.

    Countdown to Tokyo

    Then I’ll head to Spruce Meadows for June and start the countdown to Tokyo. All being well, the three-man team format for the Olympics should suit us as we have three very strong Australian riders who all know each other very well and have great camaraderie.

    I completely believe in Blue Movie, who is getting better and better as she gets older and stronger, and we are ready to give it our best shot. Australia’s best Olympic showjumping result to date was Johnny Fahey’s fourth in 1964, the last time the Games were held in Tokyo; hopefully we can go one better this time.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 9 January 2020