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From youngster to international Grand Prix horse: Explosion W

Tuesday, 08 June 2021
From youngster to international Grand Prix horse

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. The now 12-year-old KWPN gelding Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet du Rouet) has since 2018 been one of the most consistent horses on the five-star circuit. In this article, we look back at his journey to the top of the sport. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

The now 12-year-old KWPN gelding Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet du Rouet) has since 2018 been one of the most consistent horses on the five-star circuit. In his prime as the Olympic Games draw closer, Explosion W seems like a real medal contender for Tokyo. However, there is more to Explosion W than his impressive results: For his breeder Willy Wijnen, Explosion W was special from the moment he was born, while Marielle de Veer – who rode Explosion as a youngster – describes him as her best friend. World of Showjumping spoke with Wijnen, de Veen as well as Emily Mason to learn more about Explosion W’s journey to greatness.

Since pairing up with Great Britain’s Ben Maher in April 2018, Explosion W has a result record that is hard to match. The pair started their journey together by placing second in the LGCT Grand Prix of Shanghai in 2018 and then went on to win the LGCT Grand Prix of Madrid, followed by a fourth place at the Paris-leg of the tour, they were fifth in Chantilly, fourth in London and secured another victory in Rome – and ended the season with another Grand Prix win in Doha.

As if the 2018-season wasn’t impressive enough, Explosion W and Maher seemed to compete in a league of their own the following year: The pair placed second in the LGTC Grand Prix in both Doha and Estoril, won the CSIO5* 1.60m Turkish Airlines Prize of Europe in Aachen, placed third in the Aachen Rolex Grand Prix, won the LGCT Grand Prix in London and went home from the European Championships with two medals: An individual silver and a team bronze. The 2019 season ended with three more LGCT Grand Prix victories: In Rome, New York and Prague. Last weekend, the pair returned in winning form when they claimed the first prize in the LGCT Grand Prix in Valkenswaard.

Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping. “Many people were interested, but I wanted to find a good rider for him,” Willy Wijnen – who bred Explosion W – tells. Today, the gelding is one of the most successful horses in the sport with Great Britain's Ben Maher. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

For Willy Wijnen – who bred Explosion W – the success is not a surprise; he had a gut feeling on the day the colt was born. “When Explosion was born and I looked into his eyes, my gut feeling was directly: You are special,” Wijnen recalls. “I breed about five to six foals each year, but Explosion stood out. Explosion has inherited a lot from his mother Untouchable, who herself competed internationally, all the way up to 1.50m and 1.60m classes with Leon Thijssen in the saddle. I think the Chacco-Blue x Baloubet du Rouet combination is a great pairing. I know Explosion’s mother-line over four generations, and his mother is also special: Hot with a relaxed frame. Explosion’s mother was born at my yard: I started with this line 40 years ago. I think the mother-line is very important – it counts for 60 to 70 percent, if not 80.”

“When I saw Chacco-Blue for the first time in competition, I got a good feeling: He was hot, flexible and athletic,” Wijnen continues to explain about his thought behind the match. “That is the reason I chose him for Untouchable and the result was good directly. My idea when looking for the right stallions for my mares is to look at horses that have been successful themselves at the higher level – like Chacco-Blue in this case. When I first look for a stallion, the selection is really hard. It is important that the frame is good, that they are flexible – and of course their mentality. It is all about the overview.”

Despite several offers, Wijnen kept Explosion all the way until the gelding was seven. “Many people were interested, but I wanted to find a good rider for him,” the Dutch breeder explains. “I did not want Explosion to end up with someone who would use him for commercial reasons and sell him forward. I wanted a rider who would produce him to the top. However, it was not easy to keep saying no: I think more than 100 people called me when he started to show. But I waited. I was very happy with the horse: Every time he was in the ring, it was a pleasure to watch. I believed in this horse,  and knew that he needed a good rider.”

Photo © Digishots
“When I first saw him, he looked at me so kindly – it was love at first sight,” Marielle de Veer says about Explosion W, here the two together at Indoor Brabant in Den Bosch in 2016. Photo © Digishots.

“As a youngster, Explosion was not easy and he needed time,” Wijnen continues. “True to his name, he was very explosive! Tristan Tucker saddle broke him with a lot of patience. We started when Explosion was four and when he was five, we put him back to the field. After a long break, he went to Marielle (de Veen) – who also used to ride the mother of Explosion. When watching Explosion today, he looks easy and I think that this is thanks to the work Marielle did with him – she gave him a lot of time. Explosion was her friend; he did everything for her.”

Wijnen believes that patience has been key in producing Explosion W to the horse he is today. “Time is so important,” he says firmly. “I think each horse has a number of jumps in their life and if you use them all when they are young, they will not have a lot left at the end.”

Marielle de Veer – who got the ride on Explosion W when he was five – confirms that the chestnut gelding was something quite special. “When I first saw him, he looked at me so kindly – it was love at first sight,” de Veen smiles. “We were friends from the first day. He had such a friendly character. Each day Explosion was with us, he trusted us more. I think it is important that the horses feel comfortable: You have to be their friend.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping "I think that his love for work and his intelligence were his two best qualities,” Explosion's former rider Marielle de Veen says about the gelding. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Explosion is a very big horse and when I got him, he was not strong enough in his body,” de Veer explains. “Hence, I focused mostly on dressage work. Explosion was not easy to ride as a young horse; he reminded me of his mother. However, when I wanted to teach him something, he learned quickly. I think that his love for work and his intelligence were his two best qualities.”

“When Explosion turned six a page turned though, and he was just perfect: Every show we did, he jumped clear,” de Veer tells. “However, I never rode him fast, I only did training rounds. Explosion left my place in 2016, when he was seven, and moved to Ben (Maher).”

“My time with Explosion W was fantastic,” de Veer continues. “I still miss him every day – especially when I go to shows.”

“I was in Wellington last year and visited Ben’s stables. Explosion heard my voice and the look on his face was priceless: I felt like he still knew me,” de Veer smiles. “It might be strange to say, but from day one I knew he would go on to do great things. He is such a wonderful horse. Explosion can jump everything, the feeling he gives his rider is amazing.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping "I think his mentality separates him from the rest. I never had a horse like him; you could teach him one thing on one day and he straight away understood it," Explosion's former rider Emily Mason tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

When Explosion arrived at Poden Farms in the UK, it was their former rider Emily Mason who first took over the reins on the talented gelding. “I started riding Explosion in the summer of 2017, when I began to work at Poden Farms,” Emily explains. “I jumped him at a few two-and three-star shows. Explosion was already a good horse back then, but my feeling was that he was missing the final bit of confidence in himself. Although he was really good and very careful, it was not yet a full package. When we took him to Wellington that following winter, it was like a turning point for him as such. Explosion had a few good results in Europe but the first night under the lights in Wellington, something changed. It felt like he knew it was a big occasion and from there on, it felt like he could do anything. Explosion jumped a double clear in the Nations Cup there and afterwards Ben started to ride him.”

“Explosion was always a nice, kind horse,” Emily continues. “He had a lot of personality, and he was almost like a human: He wanted to be with you. I think his mentality separates him from the rest. I never had a horse like him; you could teach him one thing on one day and he straight away understood it. As to his rideability, he has an amazing balance and he wants to do good. I always had a lot of belief in Explosion; I had a feeling he was special. However, I don’t think anyone really expected him to turn out as he did. We thought he would be good, but he turned out to be exceptional. Since the first show with Ben, I enjoyed seeing him going well and still, I follow where he goes. It is nice to have been a part of his journey.”

 

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