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End of Season by Sam Watson

“Dear Connolly’s RED MILLS readers, it’s been a while… apologies!

There’s a power cut up on the hills at Ballybolger Stud – the clock says 9pm and with no television, no internet and a sleeping baby Archie it’s eerily quiet! Quiet enough for my brain to remember all of the things that I should have done this past month so here we are, with 84% battery left in the computer, the race is on!

If you caught Sabrina’s blog from the Europeans in Malmo you’ll have no doubt sniggered at her low blow to my man-pride – I basically put an aerovating machine through my finger….big whoops! So Horseware Bushman (George) was an even bigger legend than his result on paper suggests because he had little or no steering throughout the three phases. I can’t put into words what that horse means to me – a homebred star who has single-handedly made my career – cheers big fella!

It wasn’t all about George this year, although his 1000 points record, two CIC*** seconds at Ballindenisk and Camphire, and two massive performances at Badminton and Malmo did make it a lot about him alright! It was encouraging to see the rising stars starting to emerge into the public eye a bit more….

Horseware Lukeswell (Bart) was selected for the prestigious Le Lion d’Anger World Breeding Championships in France last year as a seven year old, and those of you with an eye on eventing will remember that it was abandoned due to flooding – that’ll be the most expensive dressage test in a bog I ever partake in! The consequence of that was that Bart came into this season without a CCI** so I made an early decision not to go chasing qualifications and kept him at two star all season. It was very much a pressure-off year for him with consolidation being the main aim – his results we’re 6th Ballindenisk CCI** in April, 5th Kilmanahan TNC**, 4th in Ballinamona and Annaharvey CNC**s, and 3rd at both Kilguilkey CIC** and Ballindenisk CCI** at the end of the season. He was ultra consistent and has improved a huge amount physically this year. As a weaker horse who also has a tendency to be quite ‘hot’ in his brain, he was a real headache to feed – too little food and he’d waste away, but too much and he’d be impossible to ride. We put him on the Horse Care 10cubes about 18 months ago and have never looked back – his dressage has been on an upward curve and his topline is unrecognisable. I won’t go into clichés about your horse being what you feed it, but in this case we would never have realised the full potential of this horse without the Horse Care 10.

The other youngster to make a few waves this year was the very talented Imperial Sky (Toby). He’s a seven year old who I always thought a lot of and his owners Tom and Cathy Byrne have been fantastic people to have on board, as well as proving to be very lucky for us! Their daughter, Aisling, served her sentence here as a working pupil during the season and is now in a big UK yard with Team NZL rider, Lucy Jackson. Toby kicked off the season taking 2nd place in a very competitive CIC* in Ballindenisk back in April. He went one better at Kilmanahan and then produced a solid result in the Tattersalls CCI*. He stepped up to two star pretty quickly after Tatts putting very good CIC** results together at Kilguilkey and Camphire finishing 5th and 6th. Ballindenisk CCI** was the icing on the cake where he kicked-off with a very smart dressage test, put in a comfortable clear inside the time cross country, and just added a couple of rails on the last day but held on to win. He’s still a green horse mentally and being a year behind Bart you can notice the difference in physical strength too – I expect him to improve a great deal again this winter and looking at him in the field now he’s the size of a bull which is a good start!! He really feels like a medal winner so we’ll look at the Rio Olympics as his main target and work backwards from that. I can’t see him in a championship team before 2016 given his young age, but he’s got a very good temperament and I could see him turning up in Rio and delivering something special….fingers crossed anyway!!

Out of the saddle I’ve had an incredible twelve months. Sparkles (Hannah) somehow agreed to marry me this time last year and since then we’ve had the most wonderful addition to our lives in our son Archie. Life is good folks. So as the real bite of the winter kicks in, wrap up, look after those around you, and for God’s sake make sure your horses are getting a healthy sized bucket of Connolly’s RED MILLS feed every day!

See you in 2014!!”

  • Tags:
  • Horses
  • eventing
  • Sam Watson