Lisa Williams and Discovery Campbell on the road to WEG

Unstoppable combination, Lisa Williams and Vitality Campbell, share their journey to WEG

It’s always a proud day when one of our own is selected to compete at international level. Lisa Williams and Vitality Campbell (formerly Discovery Campbell) have been tearing up the showjumping arena lately, taking home win after win. After qualifying last year for the 2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG), which will be held in Tryon, North Carolina (USA) later this year, Vitality Campbell began his quarantine journey in November. He is scheduled to arrive in Europe in March this year, and in the meantime, we caught up with Lisa ahead of Campbell’s touchdown in Belgium.

Qualifying for WEG

Our FEI World Cup classes are the equivalent of 3* level abroad. In order to qualify for FEI, both horse and rider need to have jumped two clear rounds in the World Cup classes in the FEI World Cup Series the year preceding WEG. “They don’t necessarily have to compete as that specific combination, so a qualified rider can ride any qualified horse,” explains Lisa. “To be considered for a South African team, we have to fulfil SASCOC’s [South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee] requirements and compete in at least one class of 1.30m or above at the South African Championships. This meant that our overseas South African riders needed to fly home to compete,” she adds.

Lisa and Campbell were the winners of the 2017 RSA League FEI World Cup Series, and having fulfilled all necessary requirements for WEG, the journey began.

Challenges ahead of WEG

It’s no simple task to take a horse overseas to compete, and Lisa admits that the challenges are numerous. “My ‘campaign’ for success is reliant on the health, fitness, soundness and wellbeing of Campbell,” says Lisa. “The biggest factor in this campaign is the financial aspect. Secondly, the time it takes from deciding to start planning to exporting a horse and waiting for the next quarantine intake in Cape Town, to actually landing in Europe is really long. By the time Campbell lands in Europe in early March, he would have not competed since the end of August 2017, which was the last World Cup class he jumped in Polokwane. That means it will be about seven months until he gets into the arena (at a much lower lever) to start competing and preparing. Horses residing in Europe or travelling from any other part of the world are not subjected to this long period of no training and competition,” she explains.

Exporting procedure

South Africa cannot export horses directly to Europe because of African Horse Sickness (AHS). The World Organisation for Animal Health sets out protocols for moving animals around the world, and in the case of South African horses, the export must take place from an AHS-free zone. In order to send a horse anywhere in the world from South Africa, he has to do quarantine in Cape Town. He then travels from Cape Town to Mauritius, where he does 19 days of quarantine so that Mauritius will accept the horse. He then has to do 31 days residency so that Europe will accept him as a Mauritian horse. He then does a further 19 days quarantine so that Europe will accept the import.

“So far, Campbell has travelled to Cape Town and then to Mauritius very well. He arrived in Mauritius during the first week of December 2017 full of beans, being his normal energetic, cheeky self. However, the heat and humidity started to stress him and I have had to slow down on his work, with lots of walk breaks in between as well as cold water hosing before and after working,” says Lisa.

She explains that “the horses are in Mauritius for a total of three months. The first 19 days are under quarantine conditions and the barn is locked from two hours before sunset until two hours after sunrise. This is to fulfil the Mauritian export requirements. From day 20 to 49 we are not under quarantine. We can ride very early morning, take the horses to the beach, and work them as normal. Early morning rides will hopefully make it easier for the horses to cope with the heat. From day 50 to 90 we are under quarantine rules again to meet the European Union’s requirements. At the end of the three-month period, the horses are Mauritian citizens.

The flight from Mauritius to Belgium will be during the first week of March this year. Campbell and I will then slowly start training and competing in Europe, with the goal of getting to shows of a level which will prepare us for WEG. The horses fly from Europe to the USA early September for WEG and then back to Europe after the event.” Upon arrival in the USA, the horses will be transported to stables at or near the show facility in Tryon, North Carolina. There is currently a long list of riders available for team selection.

Vitality Campbell

“In the arena he wants to perform”

Campbell is an 11-year-old Hanoverian by Catoki out of a Laptop mare. He was imported to South Africa from Germany and Lisa has enjoyed success after success with him. Now in his prime, Lisa tells HQ that Campbell loves work and especially competition. “He is hyperactive (ADHD I think!), cheeky, quirky and spooky, but in the arena he wants to perform. When riding him on the flat, both at home and away from home, he is always on his toes, looking for distractions and something that he can spin away from. Some days it is a challenge to stay on top, but I understand his temperament and know not to reprimand him and rather just to focus on the job at hand while he is being distracted. When he jumps he starts to concentrate. Because Campbell is always looking for something to be cheeky about, I have nicknamed him ‘Dennis the Menace’. His stable name is Dennis!

“Campbell is an ‘in your face’ character,” she jokes. “He will stand close to you, check your pockets, push you, nudge you, nip you and pull your clothes. He doesn’t understand personal space. His best friend, who understands (and tolerates) him all the time, is his groom, Joe. He tries to irritate Joe continuously and Joe just smiles and chats to him. Joe has been with Campbell since quarantine in Johannesburg, when he arrived in South Africa six years ago. Joe has now travelled to Cape Town and Mauritius with him.”

Text: Lisa Williams
Photography: TB Images

More about keeping Campbell fit, financing the dream, and the plan after WEG in the February issue of HQ > Shop now