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The Enduring Spirit of Team Bronson


It’s been a busy time for Daniel Watt, progressing from novice rider to rising star on the endurance circuit within just three years.

Inspired by his wife’s passion for horses, Daniel decided to take up riding at forty-three years of age.

“I bought an older horse to show me the ropes and get started. I literally had to learn everything from how to tack up, to the most basic riding skills”, Daniel explains.

“Within two months I was riding out and really starting to gain confidence”.

A few months later Daniel came across a standardbred looking for a new home.

“Charles Bronson had spent the past few years doing mostly trail riding”, Daniel recalls.

“He had a few quirks to work through, like float loading and some nervousness around machinery, but I figured he was well worth the $1000 investment to take a punt and see how we got on together.

“The day after I brought Charles home, we were riding out the back gate! We started to train on local roads and really loved getting out and about together.

“We went riding out on Snake Island and it wasn’t long before we were eyeing off our first endurance ride.

“We tackled the 40km ride at Eldorado within my first year of riding, just a couple of months after bringing Charles home!”

Bitten by the endurance bug, ‘Team Bronson’ was born and this saw Daniel and Charles filling their calendar with treks around Victoria.

Armed with an iphone, vibrant attitude and passion for his ‘champ with a stamp’, Daniel fired up his social media accounts and started to share his endurance riding adventures with the world.

“It’s amazing how many people know about Team Bronson”, Daniel says, chuckling.

“I’ll be out at a ride and strangers will shout my name and let me know they’ve been enjoying my videos.

“It’s really great to be able to share my experiences and get the standies out there a bit. They’re fantastic horses.

“We’ve started a Facebook group just for standardbred owners and it’s become a network where we can share advice and get to know each other.

“I’m actually heading out to ride the Snake Valley Dash with Hero Ambassador Mark Carson and his standy Mr Brown, which will be great fun and my first step up to tackle an 80km ride”.

“I’ve told Mark to watch out, because this year I’ve got my sights set on the VERA-Hero Champion Standardbred award and I’m planning to steal the crown from his head!”

With Charles temporarily sidelined due to health niggles last year, Daniel added another standardbred to his family.

“Harlow (who raced as Sweet Annabel) was only six years old and very green when I got her”, Daniel explains.

“Still being quite new to riding myself, she offered me the experience of training my first horse from scratch.

“Harlow’s very different from Charles, but a really exciting prospect.  She’s got a tendency to get quite hot and pully out on the trails and she often tries to take the bit and run.

“She has the most fantastic work ethic and really gets her game-face on and chases down the horses ahead of her.

“I’ve certainly got my hands full keeping my little one-eyed monster in check!”

The support of the endurance community is something Daniel acknowledges as pivotal to his success in the sport to date.

“I’ve received so much great advice, which has helped me to get as far as I have in such a short time”, says Daniel.

“During our last competition, Harlow was acting up and I was really struggling with her. Another rider came up next to me about 10km in and asked if she could share some advice with me. I said ‘heck yes!’

“She suggested I shift my leg further back and sit my heels a bit differently. It was a magic fix and made such a huge difference. I couldn’t thank her enough for that!

“If you’re willing to stay humble and be open to advice, there’s so much good stuff to learn from other riders.

“You can never know everything and there are some fantastic horsepeople out there, full of helpful tips and tricks. You’ve just got to be willing to listen!”

Daniel’s can-do attitude and commitment to developing his standies into strong, fit endurance partners has put him on the fast-track to success.

“I don’t really have any big goals at this stage”, explains Daniel, who is focused on ‘incremental improvement’.

“I’m looking forward to stepping Harlow up into the 80km section and I’ve got some fun rides coming up, which I hope to share with some mates I’ve made in the standardbred community.

“I’d encourage anyone new to the breed to give a standy a go. “I’ve literally gone from not knowing how to put a saddle on a horse, to having completed hundreds of kilometres of endurance rides and training a very green horse in just three years.

“Standies are well-suited to endurance in particular, having had a lot thrown at them during their racing careers and being very sensible by nature.

“They’re also very athletic horses. They’re often vetting through events with As and low heart rates and generally pulling up in fantastic condition.

“Even if you start off training your standardbred to do endurance and decide to change disciplines along the way, the intelligence and versatility of the breed means you’ll always have a horse ready to give something new a go.

“I just love ‘em and hope to meet more standardbred owners out on the trails in the future!”