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Sam Watson

Sam Watson and Horseware Bushman at Badminton 2009


  • Age: 26
  • Favourite Horse: Horseware Bushman (George). We bred him so he’s a family member really. At the age of seven he took me to the Young Rider Europeans where we finished 4th and missed an individual medal by just 0.4 of a penalty. He’s now won a three star, completed two Senior Europeans, two Badmintons and a World Games – what a legend!
  • Greatest Moment: Badminton finish line 2009, clear first time!
  • Words of Wisdom: "Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you don’t get it wrong” – My Dad
  • Star Sign: Capricorn
  • Essential Piece of Kit: My breeches... (not wearing any would just be inappropriate!)
  • Aim for 2015: Top 10 at the Olympics!
  • Hero or Heroine: Vincent O’Brien tops the list by a mile. I was fortunate enough to sit beside him at lunch when I was a youngster, but at the time I didn’t realise that I was in the presence of probably the greatest man I’ll ever know. However, aspiring to be like Vincent O’Brien would be demoralising! Therefore I’m naming a number two, Michael O’Leary of Ryanair. What a contrast, but O’Leary is undoubtedly a genius in his own domain. I couldn't think of a better person to lead Ireland out of the recession.


Born 28th December 1985 and weighed in at an astonishing 11 pounds! Juju Watson gave up having children after that! I have older sisters Suzannah and Rozzie, which meant that I was the spoilt ‘only boy’. Papa John Watson was the real eventing junky and was Ireland’s Golden Boy at the end of the 1930’s…sorry that should be 70’s…with European Team bronze and gold medals in ’77 and ’79 respectively, and his career highlight of an individual silver at the ’78 World Championships in Kentucky. Big boots to fill!

With the exception of being deposited on ponies’ backs before I could walk, my childhood equestrian achievements are nil! A career in the saddle looked highly unlikely until a close family friend and top breeder of Irish eventers (including owner of the Super Sire Puissance), Stephen Lanigan-O’Keefe, gave me my first Junior horse. I took him to the Europeans as a six and seven year old and he was then sold, as were most of the horses I ever rode!

After Juniors I took a break to do the Irish equivalent of A-levels. They went OK so I continued on to University at Trinity College Dublin to study Management Science and Information Systems. Horseware Bushman (George) was six by this point and showing absolutely zero signs of any talent, so my sister Rozzie handed over the reins and 'emigrated' to London to get a real job!

Had she waited another year she might not have gifted me the ride. He turned one massive corner and stamped his class on the Young Rider Europeans, where he was the youngest horse by two years. We finished 4th by the narrowest of margins and there began his love affair with mud – had Badminton 2012 not been abandoned, the script was would have been written for something special!

We completed our first 3* (Boekelo) together when he was 8 and again he showed his class across country to go clear and inside the time when only a handful could manage it. He did the same at Badminton in 2010 when finishing 13th – he was one of only four come home with a clean sheet on cross country day. Barbury has been another happy hunting ground (3rd 2009 and 6th in 2010) and he and Andrew Nicholson’s Nereo were the only two horses to finish on their dressage scores at the venue until last year. In 2011 he won his first three star at Hopetoun where he led from start to finish. His trainability and heart are his greatest attributes – he started with dressage in the 60’s, then 50’s at his second Badminton, then 40’s at WEG 2010. In 2012 he led the CIC*** at Ballindenisk with a 37.9!!

2012 is all about the Olympics with George, but his full brother Horseware Bowman could make a three star debut too. Horseware Lukeswell (7 years) and Imperial Sky (a 6 year old) are two exciting talents to aim at the World Young Horse Championships at Le Lion d’Anger, while Kilcoltrim is another striking prospect who, as they say in Ireland, ‘could be anything’!! Bring it on folks…


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