Hi there. I have just been selected for my first senior European championships for team Great Britain so I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you all about my journey to this point including some tips for any up and coming riders about gaining experience along the way.
I grew up on our family farm in Lincolnshire with 2 sisters and a horsey mum so I was put on a pony before I could walk. We spent our summers enjoying hacking, pony club and as we got older competing in all activities but especially eventing. Mum was a keen rider so we always had young ponies which she would help us to produce. This was a big help in my career, as from a young age I learnt to ride all sorts! Tinsel, my first pony was a particularly great teacher as she wouldn’t do anything unless you asked. If you told her she would buck and nap but if you asked nicely and compromised she was a brilliant performer!
From the age of 10 I had ponies in for schooling and taught the local children to ride and then when I went to university I did lots of student riding competitions, where you only get to ride the horse you will compete for 5 minutes before you compete. All of these things taught me that all horses are different and it’s the rider that often has to adjust their style to suit a horse, rather than making the horse change to the rider. My time at University was a really important part of my success today. I wasn’t a confident child and people often ask me if I regret going to university as it slowed my eventing career down. It is, in fact, the opposite as university gave me the confidence to talk to and meet new people, a necessity when running any business, and my sports science degree has given me an understanding of the importance of nutrition, psychology and physiology to our sport.
After university, I spent four years working for and being trained by Judy Bradwell. I rode her young horses in return for training and we had some great times, including winning the Burghley Young Event horse final and the CIC** at Barbury Castle. Training and spending time with experienced professionals is so important and I learnt so much from Judy: How to break and train young horses, turnout, and care of top event horses. She taught me to leave no stone unturned and never to be afraid of hard work.
Having kept horses at home whilst I was with Judy, I have gradually built up our yard at Hallington. At the same time Mum has built up a livery yard so we now have approximately 15 liveries and 15 event horses at home. My 2 best horses are Allstar B and Zenshera. Between the pair of them they have taught me so much! The biggest thing is that a horses heart is more important than natural talent. As young horses neither Allstar B or Zenshera were tipped for the top. Allstar B was a big horse and struggled to use himself in the dressage. Zenshera was weak behind and until he was 8 struggled to stay in true canter for more than a circle. And look at them now!... Allstar B was 5th and Badminton and Zenshera 9th in Luhmuhlen. They both love their jobs and even more importantly like to please. I have had plenty of horses with more physical capabilities than theses two, but without a big kind heart they will never be winners.
And for those aspiring riders, you never stop learning. I have learnt more this year, in my 9th year as a professional ride than I have in the past. Surround yourself with people that really want to see you succeed, and who will support you through the hard times as well as the good. There will always be bad days with horses, but with the right support, patience and determination the good times are worth the wait!