2016 was a year of heartache for Vanessa Watson and her horse Raphael III.
Just weeks after ‘Raph’ suffered a fall on the cross-country course of Badminton Horse Trials, with Woollard based event rider Dani Evans eliminating the pair from the world-class event, he developed life threatening colic requiring extensive surgery, and his professional career looked over.
But a year on he is back to winning competitions thanks to the dedication, belief and care of his long term owner Bishop Sutton’s Vanessa Watson.
Vanessa, who has owned Raph since he was four, rode him at the Area Festival in Dorset in the elementary dressage competition and won, qualifying for the regional championships later in the year where if the pair continue their recent success they will qualify for the national final.
Raph’s dressage ability has long been noted; before that fateful fall at the 2016 Badminton Horse Trials he had been sitting in sixth place thanks to a spectular dressage test. His performance in that test saw Dressage Olympic gold medallist Carl Hester utter those immortal words that he would ‘love to ride him’, no empty compliment when you consider Carl has ridden and owns the world’s best dressage horses including Olympic, World and European champion Valegro. But whilst there was no doubting Raph’s dressage ability before his eventing career abruptly ended, Vanessa was not quite as confident that she could take her former 4-star eventer and compete him successfully herself in dressage.
"I began riding him again last October after he’d had a few months to recover from his surgery" said Vanessa "a lot of lessons with Emily Young-Jameson have given me the confidence to get out there and compete and I’m absolutely loving it!"
Vanessa says Raph has settled into his new career, yard and lifestyle amazingly. And not only is having her much loved horse back in health and winning ways putting a smile back on Vanessa’s face but she has fulfilled a childhood dream of seeing herself and her horse feature in Horse & Hound magazine, twice, with the country’s leading equestrian publication covering their comeback. Vanessa says she was only slightly disappointed that Hugh Grant wasn’t the interviewer.