One of the greatest feelings in equestrian sport has to be the exhilaration of riding the 3* cross-country course at Braham as I did yesterday, clear within the time. I’m lucky to be able to do it. Behind all that is hours of hard physical work and riding up to nine horses a day – such is establishing a business producing and competing horses in the eventing world.
One of the worst feelings in equestrian sport has to be the embarrassment of making a complete hash of the show jumping the next day, in front of the crowd and my peers, then packing up and driving home to the other end of the country, knowing I just have to crack on and work harder and smarter. And I’m lucky to be able to do it? I love it.
I’ve been eventing since I was about 14 and was a member of my local Pony Club branch, doing a bit of everything from mounted games, to hunting, but I have always been inspired by Chatsworth Horse Trials, which is very local to home, and was keen to try eventing. Pretty soon I became addicted. I was part of the junior and young rider programs initially and I’m incredibly lucky now to be able to be making a living from my passion.
I set up by myself at the end of last year, previous to that I’d worked for Oliver Townend over in Shropshire for a couple of years. My new yard is within a large yard shared with eventer Lucy Jackson and show jumper Robert Snaddon, near Banbury in Oxfordshire. Still a couple of hours from my family home in Derbyshire, but my ties are not totally severed as my parents are instrumental in the structure and support of the business, with shares in several of the horses.
Team Townend had a hard work ethic and that has stood me in good stead, I’ve been single handed until only recently when Sophie, a temporary groom, came to work with me until my full time apprentice starts next month. Events are fully supported by my Mum, Fizz, who has always been my travelling groom and by Fiona, my (long suffering) girlfriend.
Fitting into Lucy’s yard has been great, if I’d started completely alone I’d have had to organize my own suppliers for everything from bedding to feed, not to mention electricity, water, equipment for yard and land maintenance and all the things we don’t often think about at all. However they’re already being supplied to the yard so it’s simple to increase it all to include me.
I’ve carried on using Gain Feed, which we used at Oliver’s yard and my horses all do really well on it. Gain is now supporting me, which is a real bonus and I’m proud to represent them.
Purple Sands (Rupert) is my top horse, he came to me nearly four years ago as a rather naughty ex- racehorse, who had done a bit of eventing at grassroots level, but was a bit too sharp and clever for his own good. He has gone up the grades and is a total cross-country machine, we have learnt an awful lot together and keep on learning, he is a joy to work with.
Prince Ramiro (Jack) has been with me for 18 months and is now regularly being placed at Novice; he's coming on beautifully and at only 6 he is progressing really well.
This year I hope to finish well in the CCI3* at Blenheim and get myself one step closer to competing at 4* with Rupert. Jack is aimed at the National or World 6-year-old Championships, depending on how his season goes and he will hopefully continue up the grades next year.
They were all I had to compete last year but even then planning for the months ahead was complex. This year it’s mammoth, thankfully Fizz has a keen eye on the BE fixture list and we now juggle it all on a spreadsheet, with colour coding and regular updates.
I am currently competing several other horses for owners, which I’ll introduce over the coming months, they’re mainly 6 – 8 year olds at BE100 and progressing towards novice and 1* this season.
They range in size, breeding and experience, have different strengths and training needs, I’m challenged and rewarded every day as I work with them to try to bring out their potential. All are progressing and improving, but of course, with horses nothing ever runs completely smoothly so we have to adapt all the time. I will share some of the schooling exercises that I find really useful in future columns and bring you updates of our progress.
I'm hoping to add to my yard and I may have a couple of new introductions for next time, as well as talking a bit more about the other horses and what I’ve been up to.