Winter Series: Wesko and the Windrush Equestrian Foundation

Winter Series: Wesko and the Windrush Equestrian Foundation

Wesko’s (Dash) story began with what must have been an outstanding mare, Kolien, who was by the TB stallion Mytens. Kolien not only produced Dash but also a full brother, Zaron, who is evented internationally by Italian Stella Benatti and a full sister, Polien who show jumped at Grand Prix, all by the KWPN stallion Karendasj.

 

Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography

However, none of that was known when Tim and Jonelle together with Christina Knudsen first saw Dash. They were on a horse shopping trip in the North of the UK and it was the end of a very long, cold, disappointing day looking at horses. Dash was never supposed to be on the market as he was a seriously talented showjumper and had secured himself a place on on the British “Pathway” which was for young horses that had been talent spotted and ear marked as future stars. However, Dash had a trademark move of dumping his rider in the warm up, not through any other reason than his genuine fear of horses coming towards him, but after yet another decant and a broken arm, said rider decided that the eventers were welcome to have a look at him!

 

So it was then that Tim and Jonelle purchased Dash in partnership with Christina and the story began. Tim and Dash formed an immediate rapport and in 2011 he started his eventing career as an 8 year old at BE 100 level. By the end of that season he had stepped up to his first international run and not only had he not touched a rail but he had never been out of the top 3.

 

Dash was now a valuable horse but Christina adored him and so to keep his future secure, she bought Tim and Jonelle out of their half share and owned him entirely herself. Dash sailed through the start of the 2012 season and proved to find everything incredibly easy which was probably why, when he stepped up to CIC 3* (new CIC 4* S), he discovered it was much easier to slip past a brush arrowhead than risk touching the prickly sticks as he was such a careful horse who had never had to question anything before.

 

CIC3* SHOWJUMPING: 2014 IRL-Tattersalls COPYRIGHT: LIBBY LAW PHOTOGRAPHY

This new found “skill” led to Dash going through a boundary-pushing naughty patch in the second half of the 2012 season, the pinnacle of which was having a run out (while they were in the lead) in front of the home-crowd watching from the bank at Barbury.

However, Dash soon learned how to be an all-round class Cross Country horse and the boys enjoyed numerous good National and International runs including them finishing runner up at Hartpury and winning Blair Castle 3 * which always has a tough cross country phase. Riding the high they headed over to the Continent for what was looking to be an incredibly exciting Boekelo. Having cleared all the difficult questions on course an incredibly frustrating and hugely unlucky trip into the water abruptly ended their trip to Holland.

 

2014 Luhmühlen COPYRIGHT: LIBBY LAW PHOTOGRAPHY

2014 came around with all eyes on the WEG. Dash’s Badminton debut was a short-lived affair when he spooked at the boat in the lake early in the track and Tim went for a swim followed by a very cold trot back to the stables accompanied by Rupert Sturgis. A swift new plan lead to a convincing win at Tattersalls CIC 3* and then their first CCI 4* victory at Luhmuhlen resulting in the much coveted first NZ team place for Tim!

 

A lot has been written about the awful conditions the hurriedly put together Caen World Equestrian Games endured but the eventing out at Haras du Pin was quite unbelievably third world! We drove the trucks into the venue in torrential rain and the first course walk revealed much of it totally waterlogged as well as being possibly the biggest track we had ever seen! Tim was fairly confident on his 4* winner whilst Jonelle mentioned quietly that she maybe should have brought her experienced 4* horse The Deputy instead of the green Classic Moet.

 

Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 COPYRIGHT: LIBBY LAW PHOTOGRAPHY –

Cross Country day indeed turned out to be one of the toughest stamina tests in the last decade. The first team rider for NZ had already fallen victim to the course so Tim had his orders to come home and to do it fast! The track was especially punishing on the classical jumpers like Dash who puts in so much effort over every fence meaning he was dead-legged at the last water. Dash being Dash gave it everything he had to keep going until the killer hill which lead to Tim pulling his beloved boy up. Had it not been Tim’s first appearance under team rules and had he been allowed to nurse Dash home, things might have looked a little different at the end of the second day, but it wasn’t meant to be.

 

In 2015 Dash amazed us all by putting his WEG experience behind him and showing how much he loved the sport with a runner up slot at Kentucky 4* and a 3rd at Pau 4* at the end of the year. The stage was set, the Rio Olympics were on the horizon and Dash was ready to rule the world.

 

 

2015 USA-Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event COPYRIGHT: LIBBY LAW PHOTOGRAPHY

 

By the start of April 2016 that dream had disappeared with alacrity. Dash had picked up an injury on the gallops and Christina lost her short battle with cancer in July. It seemed that the stars that shone so bright had simply surrendered their light and it was a tough time for all involved.

 

But dreams have a habit of resurrecting themselves from the ashes and after 18 months rehab with Mark Ford it was a happy if rather podgy Dash that arrived back at Mere Farm around, appropriately, Christmas time. His oldest and best friend Ringwood Sky Boy (Ozzie) was not the only one beside himself to see the boy back, Yard Manager and self-confessed Dash super fan, Lucy Miles was at the very front of that queue! A couple of quiet 2018 runs and then the Event Rider Masters in Jardy in France saw Dash and Tim reunited on the world stage and that runner up slot was simply magic to witness. The photo of Tim’s face jumping into the water with Dash sums it up. Tim says it was at that exact moment he realized that Dash was BACK!

2018 FRA-Haras de Jardy Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography

 

Life and times move on and now the Tokyo Olympic dream is being whispered again. As I write this Dash has headed back to his jumper roots on the Sunshine Tour with Tim in Vejer de la Frontera, where they will hopefully survive the warm ups as he is still as horse shy as ever!

 

Perhaps the most special twist in Dash’s tale is that, thanks to Christina Knudsen’s foresight, Tim and Dash are still together and now run under the banner and invaluable support of The Windrush Equestrian Foundation. A lifelong dream of Christina’s, the foundation has been set up as her legacy to the sport and the horses which she so loved with the aim of supporting young riders develop a successful career as professional eventers whilst enabling them to support themselves within the industry.