The Leicestershire rider explains why she gave up a full-time job to event and why her horse is known as My House
Five years after giving up a job as a sales manager to pursue eventing full-time, Emma Hyslop-Webb is about to line up at her first Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (5-8 May).
“Everyone asked what I was doing, but things like this make it worthwhile,” says Emma, who expects to have four horses at advanced level later this season. “I do what I love every day now, but it takes a long time to build up — it’s taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to this point.”
The 33-year-old’s 15-horse string is headed by her Badminton ride, Pennlands Douglas. She bought the now 11-year-old, by Ard VDL Douglas, as a five-year-old from Sue Hodgson. He had done a bit of showjumping and she always thought he would go all the way to four-star.
“He is a big, bold jumper and has a very trainable attitude,” she says. “He hasn’t always been easy — he can be grumpy and opinionated and while he loves fuss and attention, he’s a bit of a Mummy’s boy and might pull faces at anyone else. But he had all the attributes of a top horse as a youngster.”
When Douglas jumped a double clear in the eight- and nine-year-old CIC3* at Blenheim as an eight-year-old, Emma knew her instincts had been right. He went to his first four-star at Pau last year when he was 10.
“He was class and the aim for Badminton is to better that performance,” she says. “At Pau he did a 65% dressage, clear cross-country and had a rare two showjumps down as the surface was quite dead.”
Emma had initially planned to take Waldo III — a grey who she dyed pink last year to raise awareness of breast cancer — to Badminton too, but is now aiming him at Luhmühlen.
“They are two very different horses so I wanted to concentrate on each of them — with Douglas you have to dare him, while the grey likes to bounce on the spot,” she says. “I also thought it’d be better for my experience and exposure to have horses at both events rather than two at Badminton.”
‘He’s known as My House’
Just before Pau last year, Douglas’ owner Roisin Isaacs decided she wanted to sell him and concentrate on her other horse with Emma, the two-star campaigner Pennlands Lord Matcho. Emma and her husband Richard Webb bought him so she now has the security of keeping the ride.
“We had a lot of discussions about it,” explains Emma. “He’s known as My House on the yard because it’s like paying another mortgage each month!
“Richard has showjumped at Area Trial level so he does understand horses and that makes a lot of difference when you’re talking about decisions like that when you have to sacrifice a lot of things.”
Emma was initially 19th on the waiting list for Badminton and says she always planned her horse’s and her own fitness as if she was going, but left details such as her trot-up outfit until she knew she’d been accepted.
“I am looking forward to the atmosphere — there’s been an amazing amount of support,” she says. “Badminton has that prestigious element and is what I’ve wanted from a young child. It’s everyone’s fantasy and what you dream about.”
UPDATE: Emma unfortunately withdrew Douglas from Badminton on Sunday, 1 May. She told H&H: “On my final gallop, a pheasant jumped out of the hedge and spooked him, causing him to have six staples in his heel. Gutted is an understatement as he felt amazing.”