Who knew that so much could happen in just one week?! Incredible highs and some very testing lows. The main event was of course the addition of young Toby to Team Watson. He was born 10 hours after his older brother’s (Archie) first birthday, so we narrowly avoided the tag of ‘Irish twins’. Two boys will no doubt be a handful so standby for sleep deprivation and general chaos!
Camphire International kicked off just a few days later and Sparkles was still in a hospital bed when our UK competitors were making their way across the Irish Sea. If you think that would stop her from plaiting horses and doing pretty much everything at Camphire then you don’t know Sparkles!
On Thursday morning we encountered our first and most serious drama. George (Horseware Bushman) had been shod the day before and had seemed fine trotting up afterwards. However, the next day, just twenty four hours before his dressage test, he didn’t want to walk out of his stable. It was a dagger in the chest moment – Camphire was out and that could also mean WEG because a prep run was looking hard to come by.
The setback was just one of those things, we like to keep a fairly short toe as it helps his general movement, but given how dry and brittle feet can get at this time of year we just crossed the fine line which made him sore for a few days. Talk about bad timing. Anyway, he’s back in top form now and we’ll head to the UK for a run so it’s still full steam ahead for WEG!
Heading to an International without George is like playing a Champions League match without your star striker. He won Camphire in 2012 and was 2nd last year – he has also been working in a different league at home for the past month and I was more than confident of a massive run from him. It was gutting, but that’s horses. We had to get on with it.
The first horse to perform at the international venue was the very talented, and prolific winner, Imperial Sky. After a convincing win at Ballindenisk last autumn, he was now the horse to turn to for a big run and hopefully a victory in the CIC**. Ten minutes into his warm-up it was clear that all was not well. Disaster had struck twice as he had slipped his shoe back and the toe clip was now lodged in his foot….ouch!
We had the shoe taken off immediately and then a real cloud of depression hit. The two most likely winners were out. We had a five day old baby in the sweltering heat and now two fallen soldiers….I was so close to putting the ramp up and driving home. €700 in entry fees had already gone down the drain and I hadn’t contested a single phase. That hurts an event rider as it’s a sizeable percentage of the bank account. I had one last barrel to fire but it wasn’t the likely money winner.
Bart (Horseware Lukeswell) was contesting his second CIC*** and was here for experience. The only hope was that he, like all of the others, was working out of his skin at home. I had told my sister a few days before that if he really pulled something out of the bag then he could get to within 4 marks of George. On paper that could be enough for a result so I picked myself up and put my game face back on.
Bart’s dressage test was absolutely spot on. 95% of the good work he had been doing at home translated to the arena and that was enough for a considerable personal best for him. Sparks guessed his mark of 42 as soon as we left the ring and the judges agreed – straight into the lead ahead of some serious opposition. Things were looking up!
Bart has always been a natural jumper so the pressure of being in pole position going into show jumping was pretty much negated by my confidence in the horse to produce a clear. He duly obliged with ease and anyone who hadn’t noticed Horseware Lukeswell before was now sitting up and taking note. He felt very comfortable at this new level and was producing a top performance with serious professionalism.
The final phase is what eventing is all about. The time on a CIC*** cross country course often borders on the impossible, so I had to think seriously about tactics before setting off. I had very little breathing room (Lucinda Fredericks was one point behind me) and I was on a young horse, but at the same time I was never going to throw away a win. So the decision was to go out there and ask him to cruise as efficiently as he was comfortable with. Every fence off a positive stride, every combination slick and smooth – if he goes green I can always ease off and nurse him round.
Bart never went green, he went like a pro. In fact he gave me one of my top five rounds to date which means that he is up there with Horseware Bushman as a cross country machine. I asked him the question and he delivered the quickest round of the day and ended up winning the international by 13 marks! It’s fantastic to have a horse who feels like a potential star in your yard. They make the long days worthwhile and help you through the tough moments that this sport throws at you time and again.
If you have read my RED MILLS Blog before you will have heard me rave about the effect that Horse Care 10 and GROCARE Balancer have been having on Bart throughout the past couple of seasons. The horse really lacked topline and he was also quite sharp mentally. That combination is tough to deal with because extra feed to build muscle usually means extra sharpness which counteracts the whole thing.
But the Horse Care 10 as a base feed has really improved his temperament whilst still building muscle, plus its higher oil content also makes for a very shiny coat! I then introduced GROCARE Balancer to his diet this spring and that really improved his topline a step further. More muscle means more movement, more power and better recovery. A lot of things and a lot of people have contributed to our latest international success, but with this horse in particular his feed has been a massive influence.
For now all thoughts turn to WEG with Horseware Bushman. It hasn’t been an easy year but at least Camphire proved that form is only temporary and we can still deliver when we need to. Imperial Sky will be back for battle in the autumn internationals and Horseware Lukeswell will also be out again to keep adding some three star mileage.
Our small string is definitely more about quality than quantity at the moment, but our doors are always open to owners who want to come on board. Teaching is also something I enjoy and it’s an important part of the business, so anyone looking for information on private tuition and clinics can contact me by email on firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading and I’ll be updating our WEG progress shortly!
- Camphire International Horse Trials
- Horseware Lukeswell
- Sam Watson