The stunning young stallion Ebanking was one of the breakthrough showjumping talents of 2021, proving unbeatable in a string of high-profile young horse classes. As the eight-year-old embarks on the next stage of a hugely promising career with his rider Adam Botham, we went behind the stable door with the stunning chestnut “Ebay” – also this week’s H&H cover star – to find out what attributes make owner Barbara Hester’s pride and joy one of the brightest young talents to have been produced in Great Britain.
Ebanking: how it all began
The son of Etoulon was bred in Germany and was sent to Andrew Saywell as a four-year-old when his breeder found himself without a rider. His parting words were “there’s a good one here, but he twists a bit when he jumps”. Andrew’s son Jake Saywell produced Ebanking as a five- and six-year-old, racking up an incredible clear round strike rate in Spain, catching showjumper Adam Botham’s eye and leading him to speak to his relatively new owner Barbara Hester.
“Barbara wasn’t sure if she wanted to buy a six-year-old – it’s a long road with a six-year-old,” says Adam, who went and tried Ebanking for the first time with the verdict: “He jumped really great that day.
“Andrew had said to me ‘I’m not sure about this horse, but one thing he does not do is touch the jumps’. He did twist here and there – and he still does sometimes – but the reason he twists is to miss the jump and actually now the jumps have got a bit bigger, he’s straight anyway, he’s just grown out of it.”
Barbara adds: “He twists too because he’s lazy! He knows that if he twists he doesn’t have to try so hard. When the fences get bigger he says ‘OK, now I have to take this a bit more seriously’ and the twist disappears.”
According to Adam, if he jumps Ebanking (pictured below) over smaller fences in the school at home, he’d more than likely revert to his twisting style again.
“He just moves his legs out of the way and doesn’t really get his belly up!” he says. “But if you put the fences up, he’d be gun-barrel straight and jump them great. He’s just unbelievably clever!
“He’s made my life very easy – we’ve improved his ride but only as you normally would with a young horse, we haven’t had to do anything fancy with him. He does what he needs to and exactly what you ask him to. I’ve never ridden a horse like him – he can be the biggest idiot in the collecting ring, rowdy, super fresh, bucking when he lands, but the minute the bell rings, his game face is on and he’s brilliant in the ring. That is an unbelievable temperament.”
That incredible winning streak
In 2021 Adam and Ebanking got the showjumping world talking with their phenomenal winning streak, including young horse championships at Hickstead and again at Bolesworth, also qualifying for two finals at Horse of the Year Show and even stepping up to beat a field of far older counterparts in a CSI2* class at the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour.
“I loved last year – he hit most of our targets and the targets we didn’t hit were because of me treating him too much like an older horse, which I did at HOYS – it was just the wrong set-up for him, I got it wrong.” says Adam honestly. “I kept him fresh, trying to conserve his jumps – every horse only has so many jumps in its life. He had one down in the Foxhunter final, which is something I’ve always wanted to win, and it was my fault.”
But Barbara is quick to praise how well Adam has produced Ebanking.
“He’s always made the horse figure it out himself and I think that’s what these guys do so well,” she says. “He’ll go in the ring and of course you want to jump a clear round, but that’s not the goal, it’s to get the horse to improve itself and to get the horse to jump on its own. Of course, when you’re jumping 1.50m or 1.60m you have to help them a bit, but if you help a horse at 1.40m they just learn to be helped.”
Ebanking’s stunning performance to win at Hickstead was a “real eye-opener” for the team.
“What it showed he could do was gallop, he could back himself up at these fences,” says Barbara. “That’s when the phone calls started – all of a sudden people were noticing him.”
Then in London, Adam and the seven-year-old came out on top after a highly competitive 12-way jump-off to win their first CSI2* together (pictured below).
“I had a good draw near the end so I watched Joe Clayton riding the five-star horse Jenson QR, a proper good 12-year-old, and he flew round to take the lead,” remembers Adam. “He had taken one more stride round a corner than he wanted, so I said I can take six strides there instead of seven because that’s what Ebay does well from oxer to oxer, and I can probably get in front. Walking down the chute to go in, Joe was still in the lead so I said to Barbara, ‘What should we do?’ and she said, you’re only here once, it’s London, go in and win! So to beat that combination in a 1.30m when I’m riding a seven-year-old – that was cool.”
What next for Ebanking? ‘I believe in him 300%’
The eight-year-old Ebanking stepped up impressively to jumping his first 1.45m ranking classes in Spain earlier this year and the Hickstead eight-year-old championship is again a target for the summer.
“The plan for this year is to keep him on the back-burner slightly, not to overexpose him,” says Adam. “Not because I don’t think he can, it would just be stupid of me to overexpose him now when I have three older horses in front of him to jump the ranking classes. Every show I go to, I want to ride him in the biggest class because I know he can win them, but I have to protect him. Everyone keeps asking me how much scope do you think he has, does he have the jump, so I’ve started saying ‘Whatever he’s got, he’ll give us’. I think he’s got enough jump, I believe in him 300 per cent. So whatever level I get to with him, he’ll win classes.”
Barbara adds: “I think we’re incredibly lucky. You spend your life trying to find a horse like him. It’s a journey. We were pretty confident about him at the age of six – more confident than everyone else was actually – and what’s really exciting is that in Spain this year, people started to see what we’ve always seen in the horse. It’s hard to say how far this journey will go. But he’s got the athleticism, the right mind, he’s quick, and I suppose the only question is does he have the scope? And we’ll find that out over the next few years.”
You can read the full interview with Team Botham in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound, in the shops on Thursday, 26 May.
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Credit: Emily Arundale
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