The event rider tells Pippa Roome about juggling priorities in sport and business, the special horse who keeps her going
Coopers Law, who eventer Emilie Chandler took from in-hand showing to multiple five-star completions, has been put down aged 18 following a recurring injury.
“Spider”, by Mill Law and out of Miss Cooper, was owned and bred by Sally Williams and Nicola Dickens. Emilie first met Spider as a two-year-old when she showed him in hand for his owners.
“The young horse classes were held at Tweseldown back then so we took him down. I didn’t have much experience showing horses in hand but we got on with it and he was quite well behaved,” Emilie told H&H.
“The following year we broke him in and from then he stayed with me. He would go home for a holiday once a year to his wonderful owners in Derbyshire.”
Emilie said Spider provided some challenges along the way.
“He gave me a really difficult year as a five-year-old and at one point I wondered whether I should carry on, but thankfully I did. He won the national five-year-old championship and that was a massive turning point in his career,” she said.
“He was never straightforward and could always be pretty sharp. He found the big occasions quite nerve-racking and he was very susceptible to noise and atmospheres. He always tried his best, but sometimes he wasn’t always so easy.”
Emilie and Spider worked their way up the levels and made their five-star debut at Burghley in 2015, where they jumped clear across country and finished in 21st place.
“At every level I used to say to his owners, ‘I’m not quite sure how he’s going to cope but we’ll give it a try’ – and he just kept answering the questions. He really was a horse of a lifetime,” said Emilie.
“He had the most beautiful gallop which made life really easy. I remember doing his first intermediate and I said I would just go for a nice steady clear, and he went inside the time. He was always honest, although it took him a while to jump into water and he gave me a few ‘moments’. But the older he got the better he got.”
“We just missed out on the senior Europeans team at Blair in 2015 so on the back of that we decided to go to Burghley. It was quite a bold move for our first five-star but he gave me the most amazing ride. I walked the course thinking ‘I don’t know how he’s going to read some of these questions’. There was a big upright gate at the top of the Dairy Mound and things which you couldn’t really plan for and had to react to in the moment. He gave me such a great ride, it was a real achievement.”
Emilie and Spider were 14th at Pau in 2017 and finished 20th on their Badminton debut in 2018. The same year Spider sustained a tendon injury. After a lengthy rehab with Emilie, he returned to eventing in 2021 with young rider Evangeline Gaskell, 21.
“We really took our time with the rehab and he made a remarkable recovery. It’s brilliant he was able to come back and give Evangeline some experience – it was wonderful for her, and for him because he loved it,” said Emilie.
“He knew he was the king. He was really kind but he was fairly opinionated if you ever led him out on a lead rope, he took you for a walk rather than you taking him. He was very sweet, but when he got fired up for competitions he was quite the man – and he knew it.
“He was very special. It was an incredible journey and I’m very grateful that I had the chance to produce such a nice horse with such loyal and supportive owners. He really gave us all a lot of fun.”
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Credit: Trevor Holt
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