If you're not in the fortunate position of having horse mad parents to give your riding career a kick start, what can you do to set yourself on the path to success? Andrea Oakes offers some top tips

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If you never raced off to the riding school as a child, eyes bright at the prospect of a day’s hard labour in return for a free ride, you probably didn’t grow up in a non-horsey family.

And if you never saw a look of incomprehension and panic on your parents’ faces as you quickly became addicted to this new, expensive and worryingly dangerous hobby, then you definitely didn’t.

But being born of non-horsey parents has not stopped some of our well-known riders from reaching the top — from dressage rider Anna Ross (pictured top) to showjumper and event rider Jay Halim.

Going it alone: how to survive with non horsey parents

1. Take the driving seat

Parents want proof that a new hobby is no flash in the pan before they commit themselves. Lead from the front, bringing family members on board with your enthusiasm.

2. Develop your niche

Make yourself useful and opportunities may come your way. If you can coax results from the naughty ponies and the no-hopers, you may be in with a shout when a more promising ride needs a new jockey.

3. Explore opportunities

Pony teams might be out of reach, but bursaries and training schemes such as the Pony Club’s rider development pathway can leg you up towards your goal. Visit www.pcuk.org

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4. Train your team

From paperwork and picnic-making to lorry mechanics — even if parents are not hands-on with the horses, they can still be involved.

5. Maintain focus

Don’t dwell on what others have. “Focus on yourself and you’ll stand half a chance,” says Anna Ross.

6. Dream on…

It could happen — as Mary King, Paul Tapner and Carl Hester, among others, have proved.

Don’t miss the full feature about top riders who’ve hit the big time depspite not having horsey parents, in the current issue of Horse & Hound magazine (28 January 2016)