He’s a predator in the ring. But a pushover in the stable.
Australia’s Rowan Willis and Shark captured their first international victory on American soil on Sunday with the FEI $50,000 CSI2* Grand Prix at Brave Horse Equestrian Center, the penultimate stop on the 2018 Split Rock Jumping Tour.
Twenty-third to go in the order, Willis and the 10-year-old bay gelding produced the first clear of the day over the challenging Anderson Lima designed 1.45m track. Their fault-free round elicited a fist pump from the course designer and cheers from the crowd.
When the 47 deep field was complete, three more would qualify for the jump off. First to return, Willis and Shark set the time to beat with a double clear in 45.52 seconds, putting the pressure on USA’s Christine McCrea (Dali de Vy), Liza Finsness (Shiver), and Sloane Coles (Chippendale’s Boy).
“Being first to go is always a tough one, but I know my horse is naturally fast so I don’t need to think about going too fast, which is not easy for me sometimes,” said Willis.
“I just started off nicely. I got a nice turn back and then once I jumped the yellow double on the side, which I thought might just be a little problem, then I could let him run a bit to the last four jumps and I took my time a little bit to the last fence just to make sure I jumped it. He was fantastic! The rest of the girls kept me nervous though.”
Three nail biting rounds later, Willis and Shark were declared the winners.
The victory is one in a growing list of international wins around the globe for the pair. Willis and Shark have collected several top placings in Europe, North Africa, Canada and the United States, including wins in San Giovanni in Marignano (Italy), Mostaganem (Algeria), and Saint-Lô (France).
“I’ve had him since he was a five year old,” continued the Australian.
“He’s out of the same mare as my good horse, Blue Movie. It’s a mare called Showtime that Nick Skelton took to the Atlanta Olympics, and he’s by Arco who Nick also rode at the Athens Olympics, so he’s bred to jump.”
While he has the bloodlines of a competitor, the ironically named horse has the personality of a pet.
“He’s like my dog really,” laughed Willis. “He follows me around. He always wants attention. He’s got a real character. I think he’s probably want to come and live inside with us!
“He’s got a great attitude and can win as well.”
Willis will contest the national division with Shark this week at the Columbus International II and call on Everse W to contest the CSI3* international classes.
Watch them compete all week on HorseNetwork.com/live.