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Sam Watson – Ballindenisk

Mixed emotions as we close up shop at the end of another eventing season. I always wish I had more horses, well more good ones anyway! The World Championships for six and seven year old horses takes place in Le Lion d’Anger this week and it’s a shame that for the second year running I don’t have anything to take there. Pau CCI4* is the following week and I seriously envy the top riders who will be taking their third, fourth and even fifth string horses!

Strength is one thing, depth is another, either is great but both is the dream! I’ll keep working my way towards it. I’m steadily going in the right direction, but like many Irish riders I’m crying out for owners who share that dream and can back the level of professionalism and horsepower required to reach those heights.

However, there is also a time to break your focus on looking forward and have a brief reflection on what has been. 2014 ended well with Horseware Lukeswell taking a very comfortable 4th place on his debut at CCI3* level in Ballindenisk. His dressage was nice, perhaps solid rather than great but a score of 47 had him in the top five after the first phase.

He’s come on a huge amount in this phase and I have attributed a lot of that to his increased strength from good feeding – my previous blog posted after his win in Camphire goes into more detail, but the combination of Horse Care 10 and GROCARE has increased muscle mass phenomenally whilst keeping his temperament in check. As I said before, thank you RED MILLS!!!

The cross country down in Ballindenisk was pretty testing in places. It presented quite a unique test in that it was very natural and rustic with interesting use of banks and road crossings. Lukeswell is a very careful horse and, for him, I always preferred the British-type courses which are big and open but very technical. It’s all in front of you – difficult, but easier to read.

Ballindenisk required a lot of bravery with many leaps into the unknown. Being honest, I always expected Lukeswell to go clear but I thought that he had the right to have the odd sticky or green moment. He was superb at Camphire but that was his type of course. So, you can imagine the size of the grin when I finished an absolutely outstanding round on him at Ballindenisk too. He was magic, so straight and so confident. He adores his job and he’s nimble, adjustable, slick, and efficient and I’m beginning to realise that he’s every bit as brave and tough as Horseware Bushman too.

It’s all well and good seeing and feeling these attributes in a young horse at novice level, but when a horse is reaching new heights at CCI3* internationals then things are getting pretty exciting. The European Championships are in Blair Castle next year and Lukeswell is now qualified for that. I don’t want to be unfair to Bushman, he means the World to me, but Lukeswell is definitely in a different league when it comes to raw ability. Bring on 2015!!!

We’re changing our winter routine slightly in that the top horses have been given a short break and we’re now preparing them for some good indoor showjumping over the next few weeks. They’ll have a month after that to bring them up to Christmas and then they will be on pre-season training for next year. Shows like Cavan are a good opportunity to get in some jumping practice, but more importantly to expose the event horses to some bigger atmospheres.

We have nothing in our sport that prepares a horse for a true Championship atmosphere like WEG this year. We get them to absolute peak fitness and then ask them to do dressage in the most testing environment they have ever experienced – so I’m hoping that we can condition them a bit in the show jumping ring. I’d love to see jumping classes specifically for top level eventers be brought into shows like the RDS as the experience at that time of year, just before the major championships, would be invaluable.

From what I hear, I’ll have plenty of time whilst I’m in Cavan to write a more in-depth reflection of the entire year, so until next time, many thanks for reading and many thanks to RED MILLS for keeping the horses in great shape!

  • Tags:
  • Horses
  • Ballindenisk
  • Horseware Bushman
  • Horseware Lukeswell
  • Sam Watson