Thursday 22nd of October 2020
Ian Wills

Ian Wills: From Foal to Fabulous

Hello to all you fantastic Gaitpost followers. This is our first blog for the site and we’re very excited to share the trials, tribulations, learning and essential laughter involved in the weird and wonderful world that is eventing and horses, writes Ian Wills.

© Solene Bailly Photos

© Solene Bailly Photos

 

As a professional eventer it’s our bread and butter to ride and compete for the fantastic owners who support Eventing. Eventing couldn’t survive without their patronage and passion.

They’ve invested large sums of money on superb equine athletes that we get the pleasure of progressing and competing. However, there is something incredibly special and life affirming about being part of a horse’s life from day dot. 

From when you see them stumbling to their feet in the minutes after their birth and cavorting with mum to the day you get a letter through the post, 7 years later, telling you that your little filly Fallulah has qualified to compete on the world stage with the best of the best. Proud dad moment!

As a three and four year old Fallulah was small and lacked strength so we gave her the time she needed to come into her own. Her first event was in the July of her 5th year. On the yard she lived in the shadow of Hartpury Sky is the Limit, who was selected with me for the Olympic Equine Pathway, but that programme also gave her some useful opportunities to shine.

Ian Wills

At the beginning of 2016 the aim for her season was to have fledgling eventer Fallulah qualified to compete at CCI**. After a few learning curves at Intermediate and a solid run at Houghton CCI* and Gatcombe CIC** we applied for Le Lion, The World Breed Championships in France in October.

Why not? She has the talent and balls that the best geldings on my yard can boast of so a damn shame to not at least throw our hats in the ring!

And just like that, in early September, we received confirmation that we’d been selected to compete from the 20th to the 23rd October at the 7 year old World Championships. We were in great company with the British contingent in our class also represented with Gemma Tattersall, Pippa Funnell, Simon Grieve, Virginia Wells and Kitty King to name just a few.

© Solene Bailly Photos

© Solene Bailly Photos

So as usual in life the big day rolled round in no time at all! The journey was seamless using Pedens to book our passage through Portsmouth to Caen. Following a four hour drive to Le Lion we received a very warm welcome from the secretary.

Fallulah and my (amazing!) support team of Michael Morris and Joanna Alcock had travelled great, although there was a fairly green human complexion on the boat! Tuesday and day one was spent setting up camp, grazing Fallulah and giving her a little leg stretch. Wednesday was trot up day, so Team Ian Wills Eventing made Fallulah look shiny and new to add to her naturally look-at-me looks, which were much admired by all. Dad cleaned up all right himself!

Thursday … Dressage day dawned foggy and chilly but the sun burnt through. Our working in went to plan and everything was feeling great. On entering the main arena Fallulah’s youth showed and some marks slipped away with babyish mistakes. Her first go on the world stage may not have been show stopping but there were moments of brilliance where her dancing dazzled.

Ian Wills Ian Wills

We then enjoyed a course walk around one of the most amazing tracks in the world with a huge championship feel – and plenty of places for things to go wrong. Bold distances and some tight lines over very ornate obstacles set a testing challenge coupled with an exuberant atmosphere and crowd, the likes of which our girl had not yet encountered.

All set and excited on Saturday, Fallulah’s veins were up and ears pricked absorbing the electric buzz from the incredible French crowds. We started a little cautiously but after fence two our homebred girl took me for the most incredible ride cross country.

Having got her head around the buzz and bohemia from fence two she did not turn a hair at the clapping and cheering from the participating 5-people deep crowds, with just three time penalties to add to our dressage score lifting us some places.

© Solene Bailly Photos

© Solene Bailly Photos

 

Fallulah’s recovery was spot on. She ate and slept well and came out on a very chilly Sunday morning tired but enthusiastic, trotting up in front of the ground jury beautifully. We walked our showjumping course, which was a fair test. To marr the week it started to rain but the crowds remained and the atmosphere was buzzing, which lifted the spirits of the inexperienced Fallulah.

Unfortunately we slipped on the turn to the combination, resulting in poles falling, crowd participation at its best and all credit going to Fallulah for regaining our composure and completing.

© Solene Bailly Photos

© Solene Bailly Photos

Ian Wills

What’s not to love? This event is undoubtedly one for your diary. The French really know how to put a great show on, Moulin Rouge has nothing on Le Lion!

I’m incredibly grateful to my forever friend Michael who bred Fallulah in the first place and who, with top groom Jo looked after her every need at her biggest party to date. And to my sponsors; The Vets Centre, who take great care in nurturing the wellbeing of all of my horses, Courtney Consulting who help me keep in touch with everyone I need to and Black Country Saddles whose world class saddles allow my horses to use their bodies without restriction to achieve their destiny – an enormous heartfelt thank you from me and Fallulah for being such an important part of Team Ian Wills Eventing. We couldn’t do it without you.

Although we didn’t end up in the money for this first world class event for young Fallulah, she has returned home fit, well and more experienced for next year. We will now aim for the 8/9 year old classes, ending at Blenheim 2017. See you there.

Thanks everyone.

Ian

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