Abbervail Dream was sold to Noel Cawley at weaning and qualified for Millstreet’s Young Irelander final as a three-year-old. However, the young horse finished down the line when his high mark in the loose jumping phase was not matched by his conformation score.
Noel was considering keeping him for another year when Robert and Dina Verburgt came along in search of promising young horse. But his new owners found him unsettled and hard to keep weight on. “He was very intense and sensitive and, even now, that piece of his character sets him apart,” says Robert.
Mac proved quite rough and, not surprisingly, grooms tumbled off him. However, Robert developed quite a bond with him and enjoyed hacking him out and competing at local shows.
Following a “spooking” incident, in which a groom sustained a broken hip, Robert turned to Di Lampard for help. Robert was a pupil of Di’s partner, Dietmar Ackermann, and they had often discussed producing a young horse up to international level.
“He came for two weeks and is still here nine years later,” says Di. “He looked a 15.1hh weed with a lot of growing to do. His legs seemed to come from one socket and his feet were splayed out. But as he got older and stronger, his physique changed, and those who had seen him as a youngster didn¨t think he was the same horse.”
Once in the saddle, Di discovered that Mac had the most unbelievable engine. “He was a typical late developer and we spent two years doing basic work over and over again. As a seven-year-old, everything suddenly clicked and clear rounds became the rule rather than the exception.”
Abbervail Dream quickly reached grade A and in 1994, the pair burst into the big time with wins in the Queen Elizabeth Cup and the Olympic Star Spotters final. Two years later, they were members of Britain’s winning Nations Cup teams at Hickstead, San Marino and Dublin, watched proudly at the latter by Noel Cawley.
“He¨s an out and out jumper and a clear round specialist and to win the Queen’s Cup at the age of seven was a fairytale,” recalls Di. “From then on, he was in at the deep end, but I felt that, bold as he was, he was still quite fragile and I was very careful not to over-jump him.
“Mac was quite a shy, fretful character when he arrived, but he gradually began to trust us and settle into a routine. However, he remains cautious if strangers approach and will always take a couple of steps back and judge them before allowing any contact.”
“No one can build a track too big, wide or technical for this horse,” says Di. “The more problems, the better he jumps. He’s sharp and sparky and not an easy ride, but I know that, however big the fence, I can just ride steadily down to it, squeeze, and he pops over.
“He’s a showman and always rises to the occasion – and we still haven’t seen the best of him.”