Rowan Willis left his hometown of Armidale to move to the United Kingdom 19 years ago to pursue his love of showjumping and the plan has nearly paid off.
Willis is within reaching distance of fulfilling his long-term dream of representing his country at the highest level with his inclusion on Equestrian Australia’s long-list for the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina in September.
The former The Armidale School student and his champion horse Blue Movie were included in the list alongside Edwina Tops-Alexander, Scott Keach, Billy Raymont and Jamie Kermond.
The team will be reduced to four to compete at the Games and with Willis only behind Tops-Alexander in Australian rankings on the world stage, he is a fair chance of making the cut.
“Edwina Alexander has been to numerous World Championships and Scott Keach has been to a couple of Olympics and Jamie Kermond has done an Olympics and a World Games as well so there are some good riders there,” he said.
“In world rankings we are the second best in Australia at the moment so if all keeps going well then hopefully we should be there.
“Edwina is the only other Australian that has won a five star grand prix, certainly recently, and it was against some of the best riders in the world so it was a very tough five star.
“It certainly put us up there and grabbed some attention.”
Willis and Blue Movie were long-listed for the 2016 Rio Olympics unforeseen circumstances meant they couldn’t line up.
“I have always produced my horses and then had to sell them but I am lucky enough now to be in a position to not have to sell her even though we have had a fair few offers,” Willis said.
“We were on a long-list for Rio but then we had a couple of issues with her so unfortunately we didn't make it in the end.”
Blue Movie is Armidale-owned with Willis and his parents David and Elsa, his sister Renee, Warren Coventry and Guyra’s Wendy and Michael Jackson co-owning her.
Willis and Blue Moon took out the top-level five star Grand Prix in Florida two weeks ago worth US$265,000.
He has always regarded in the chestnut mare as a superstar in the making and said, should they make the final team, they will give the competition a shake.
“I have always believed that she is more than capable and now everything seems to be in the right space,” he said.
“I have actually always believed in her right from when she was a foal, I thought she would be special and she has taken a long time.
“She is not the easiest horse but we have persevered and she won a lot for me last year, she won a three star and a four star Grand Prix.
“We won the five star Grand Prix the other week which is against some of the top riders in the world.
“She started off this year very well so I think on her day she is more than capable of beating anyone.”
If all goes to plan, Willis and Blue Movie will then turn their attention to turning out for Australia at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“She will certainly be the right age to go to Tokyo and I have some other younger horses as well that hopefully more than capable so I would like to think for Tokyo I would have a choice of two or three horses,” he said.