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That Special Bond – with Rowan Willis

Wednesday, 19 June 2019
That Special Bond

WoSJ has created a series of exclusive interviews with some of the top names of the sport, to discuss the horses that have shaped their careers, fulfilled their dreams – and sometimes even broken hearts. The series was created to highlight what our sport truly is about; the special bond between a horse and its rider.

We asked Australia's Rowan Willis, who placed 12th individually at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon last year with his fiery chestnut Blue Movie (Chacco Blue x Pilot), to tell us about the horses that have had the biggest impact on his career.

The Special One

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Rowan Willis with Blue Movie at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon. " I don’t think anyone else has ever believed in Blue Movie like I have, everyone thought I was mad," Willis says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Blue Movie – or Carrots as we call her, since she is orange – is my special one, for sure. I rode for Sue and Fred Welch for 12 years and Sue bred Blue Movie. I liked Blue Movie since she was a foal and already tried to buy her then. With help from my parents, David and Elsa Willis, my sister Renee Willis, friends Michael and Wendy Jackson and Warren Coventry, we managed to buy her as a 5-year-old. She has always been very difficult, and it took a long time for me to figure her out. Finally, the last few years we have come to a point where I have managed to do so. She has always been a real fighter, and I knew if I could get her on my side, she would be an exceptional horse.

Blue Movie is ultra-careful, and that has often been the problem. The less I stress her, the better she is and I don’t actually ride her that much. I mainly lead her off another horse, and we do a lot of hacking. Leading her has been a good way to get her to do a lot of fitness without stressing her out. Last year we were based in Lexington, at a beautiful farm of the Boone family, with 600 acres around to just do hill work. That kept her fit and happy.

However, her rideability over bigger courses has been the reason why it has taken so long for us. Blue Movie has needed experience in the ring, and we can’t really train that at home. She did not show much until she turned nine, and basically, we just needed to gather experience round by round.

Photo © private collection "I mainly lead her off another horse, and we do a lot of hacking," Willis explains about Blue Movie's program. Photo © private collection.

As a personality, Blue Movie is very sweet and well-mannered on the ground – but always alert. She knows what is going on. When she is in the ring, she gives a 110 percent and fights for everything. I am very lucky though, as my groom Robert has worked for me for 12 years and has taken care of Carrots all her competition life. She trusts him completely, and she would always look for him.

On the final day at the World Equestrian Games a good friend of mine, Mark, called me saying that there are 23 riders there currently thanking God that the horse rotation does not exist anymore. But on the other hand, I think Marcus Ehning could have probably ridden her and made her look nice and easy! I am happy though that the horse rotation for the top four is no longer in use, as for a horse like her it would not be fair. It would be really difficult for her, and I would not want her to go through something like that.

If I ever felt like giving up on her? I have fallen off many times, and asked her: “Why can’t you just be normal?” But then again, I would not want her to be normal! I don’t think anyone else has ever believed in Blue Movie like I have, everyone thought I was mad. Now she has proved the world that she is an exceptional horse, and she has a good fan base. I think it is nice that she gets the attention and reward she deserves. Blue Movie is 13-years-old now, but since she has not done so much, I think she can go on for a few more years. She is only getting better and better, and I think her best is yet to come. I hope so anyway. For the summer my goal is Spruce Meadows and then we have the Olympic Games in Tokyo coming up in 2020.”

The One That Got Away

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Lizziemary with Danielle Goldstein in the saddle. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“That would be Danielle Goldstein’s Lizziemary (Cabri d’Elle x Acord II). A good friend of mine had her when she was a young horse. I watched Lizziemary as a 5-year-old at Hickstead, and she was supposed to come to me. Unfortunately, she was sold just before that happened.”

The Money Maker

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Rowan Willis with Everse W. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“I have a horse called Everse W (Lexicon x Carthago), owned by Dinah Posford. This horse has won international Grand Prix classes, he has won speed classes, puissance classes, six-bars and the derby at Spruce Meadows last year. I think there aren’t that many horses who can win in such a wide variety of classes these days.” 



Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen

Photos © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping / private collection

No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

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