Dan Watson has produced many horses up to grand prix but asked which horse made him as a rider, he says, “I have to pick Fideramber. Sadly, ‘Freddie’ is no more, but Dan says: “He was the one who shot me onto the international stage and everything I learnt while retraining him has helped me with the horses who came after.”
“FREDDIE had had so many riders when I got him aged about nine that his head was all over the shop. It’s hard to put into words why I bought him, but I felt he was special. He was so, so difficult at the start and continued to be so for 18 months to two years. Because I’d never had really talented horses to train in my early career, I learnt to stick with horses and not give up on them too early.
“When later in life you’re lucky enough to have four, five, six really good horses to ride, sometimes you can afford to say, ‘I don’t want to get on that’. With Freddie, at that time in my career, I couldn’t. I had to keep pushing forward and that kept me going. I understood him and I tried to think how I thought he was thinking to get the best out of him.”
“He’s not taking the bit — how can I get what I’m trying to achieve?’ Some days I’d be on him an hour and a half, just walking, trying for some kind of feeling of connection.
“There was just nothing ‘there’. No contact! I’d go into a half-pass and halfway across the arena he’d flip out and feel as if he was going to go over backwards. That is how light in the mouth and behind the leg he was. He’d learnt how to stay like that with so many people that most wouldn’t even get on him because his reactions were so extreme.
“I just sat there and rode him through it. I’d ride the half-passes with the reins on the buckle because it was the only way I could get him to push and go forward. Once he got the confidence — and it was all about confidence — then it started to come together.
“Freddie taught me the most out of all the horses I’ve had in my career. You have to use your brain to understand how the horse is inside its head, then you can start to get it to work the way you want.”
The next horse that Dan competed at international grand prix within the UK and on the Continent was Olivi-sired Amadeus VI. Dan continues: “We bought Amadeus for Nicola Naylor, a blind para rider, to get straight on and play around with at Medium and Advanced Medium. I had never fallen off Freddie but the day after Amadeus arrived in our yard I fell off him. Obviously, Nic couldn’t go anywhere near him but Freddie had given me the confidence to know that we could get there if we persisted. It’s also helped me to teach people how to work out how to tackle their schooling issues. How to find their way through the various elements of their problems.”
For more information about Dan, visit Aster Horses
© Celia Cadwallader, 25 June 2020