Matthew Dowsley needs little introduction in the sport of dressage, not only in Australia but internationally. He has trained many horses to National Grand Prix Champion status. There was Gullit, who was reserve for the Rome WEG and who was sold to a client of Carl Hester’s; Carl rode him to represent Britain at the Sydney Olympics. There was Cinderella, who competed at the WEG at Aachen. And there was Prestige a few years ago, who scored over 70% at his few Grand Prix starts… now the one to beat them all is Santiago!
Matthew was in Europe and was offered a two-year-old colt by Sandro Hit x Rubinstein x Weltmeyer by the breeder Sylvia Johannsen from Hanover and it was connection at first sight. This stallion was San Jose, and he was imported and broken in and trained to Advanced by the age of six. Matthew was simply crazy about this stallion and his amazing temperament and rideability. He was saying that it was as if he had been here before. There was never a day in training when he went back to the stables that his work and understanding wasn’t better than the previous day! He was the most exciting horse that Matthew had ever sat on.
To his dismay, San Jose died after a serving accident that led to two colic surgeries before his battle for life was ended. Matthew to this day is still shattered at the loss and lost enthusiasm until one day a friend who had bred a Sandro Hit x Florestan colt called and said he must come and have a look to see if he may suit, as he was similar to San Jose. Matthew decided to have a look and it again was immediate attachment and he purchased the colt to be named Santiago!
The mother of Santiago, Fashionista, was owned by friend and student Sally Keen (nee Latona, originally from Hobart) and was imported as a broodmare from Kasselmann’s at PSI. The mare also is the mother of the very successful MI Sirtainly Sir. After Matthew had Santiago at home, two of his foreign students, one from France and Stefano Chessa from Italy, broke him in and started to work him as a three-year-old. He qualified in the young horse classes and was the winner of the five-year-old class at Dressage & Jumping with the Stars in 2016 and went on to be Champion of Champions; the following year he again qualified well and finish third in the six-year-olds. As a seven-year-old he was Medium and Advanced Champion at the NSW State Championships and was working on all the FEI movements. San Jose was also a former DJWTS Champion of Champions, winning with Matthew in 2010.
It was inevitable that he was a very sought-after horse and, as it happens, Emma Weel from Carrara in Queensland was looking and it was love at first sight when she saw Santiago! He was purchased and left Matthew’s property to be ridden by Emma and proved to be an absolute delight. Matthew would go to Nicole Tough’s, where Emma was training, to teach at the property and help with the further training of Santiago. Emma would always ask Matthew to get on and have a ride, but Matthew would always say it was Emma’s horse and, as much as he would love to ride him, he was going well and there was no need.