Francis Wittington, a 26-year-old event rider from West Sussex, recently received the PricewaterhouseCoopers rider award of £1,000 for young riders aged 23-28 who have set up their own eventing business, at the Event Horse Owners’ Association’s (EHOA) annual dinner and awards ceremony.

Francis had a fantastic 2003 season including an advanced win at Gatcombe on his top ride Osh Kosh, and being placed third in the Eventer’s Grand Prix at Hickstead in the same week.

“The highlight for me was certainly the week of Hickstead and Gatcombe,” explains Francis. “Riding in the International Arena was quite intense. My sister had lent me Burlington Burtie for the class and his owners had flown in from Ireland so I didn’t want to make any mistakes with them all watching.”

Despite enjoying a reasonably successful season in the run up to Hickstead, Francis had no illusions of grandeur on his arrival at the All England Jumping Course.

“When we arrived at Hickstead I was looking forward to enjoying the experience and hoping to remain in one piece — especially with Gatcombe less than a week later. When he jumped round so well I though we might end up being placed sixth or seventh. To finish third was fantastic.”

Francis is looking forward to next season and has a string of nine horses at various levels, which he rides for different owners.

“I don’t own any horses myself and over the past few years I have become more aware of the need to plan for the future, as well as for the season in hand.

“My long-term plan has been to find some nice youngsters to bring on through the grades myself. My owners have been very supportive and it has given me a string of horses for the future, which support my current top rides.”

Francis’s plans for 2004 include three-star events for his top horses Osh Kosh and Spin Doctor, while his younger horses will be run according to their needs.

“I am hopeful that Osh Kosh will go all the way. He went from strength to strength last season and I believe he will continue to improve.”

Francis was surprised and delighted to receive the £1,000 award, which he plans to put towards the purchase of a new piece of kit.

“I desperately need a new top hat, and I tend to try and use unexpected finances, such as the PricewaterhouseCoopers award or the money I won at Hickstead, to update my equipment, rather than pay for everyday bills.”