Rowan Willis Knows Chestnut Mares

Rowan Willis and Blue Movie. Photo by Spruce Meadows Media/ Mike Sturk

By Julie Claire Ma

Dashing Australian Rowan Willis has been dominating the North American show jumping circuit with his star mount, Blue Movie.

Blue Movie is a 16-year old chestnut mare, by Chacco Blue, and out of Showtime. 

On August 5, the pair won the $138,600 Premier Equestrian CSI5* 1.50m in Traverse City, Michigan during week five of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival.

Last month at Spruce Meadows, Willis and Blue Movie finished eighth in the prestigious and competitive Queen’s Cup. Willis is in the top 20 All-Time  Prize Money Winners at Spruce Meadows, having won close to $1.5 million to date.

Willis left Armidale, Australia in 2004 and has been living the nomadic lifestyle ever since. He spends the winters competing in Florida, then travels from show to show the rest of the year. “We don’t have a home to get homesick for,” he commented.

Willis and Blue Movie have had a lifelong relationship. “I ride for the lady who bred her, so I picked her up from the start and broke her in.”

Willis realized there was something special about the mare and purchased her with the help of family and friends. “I finally bought her when she was five. My parents and my sister and two friends from home – they’re not horsey at all, they’re actually sheep farmers – they came together to help me buy her. She’s taken us on a good journey.”

Willis credits his success with the tricky mare to meeting her more than halfway. “She’s a chestnut mare times ten. She’s always been very tricky. It took me a long time work her mind out. It was meeting 80% her, 20% me. I tell her what shows we are going to, but that’s about it,” he laughs.

Spectators may be surprised to see Willis ponying Blue Movie, affectionately known as “Carrots,” in the warmup ring at horse show. “She’s better off when she’s not ridden. Most of the time I just pony her off another horse. That’s her main exercise.”

With self-deprecating humor, Willis mused, “maybe I’m the reason she’s difficult.”

Rowan Willis and Matt Williams. Photo by Julie Claire Ma

Willis travels with a group of other Australian riders, including Matt Williams, Maddison Stephen and James Arkins. The camaraderie among the crew is evident both on and off the course. “We get in a little trouble together,” he joked.

Willis and Blue Movie will show at the Spruce Meadows Master’s in September. Look out for the pair in Kentucky, Tryon, Washington and Toronto this fall.

Julie Claire Ma is an internationally-published show jumping journalist. Follow her Instagram @julieclairema for behind-the-scenes footage of the Spruce Meadows Masters this September.

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