George Whitaker is among six riders to be selected for the prestigious Athenaeum Riders Academy, a programme founded in 2014 under the patronage of the European Equestrian Federation that gives talented young European showjumpers between the ages of 18 and 23 the chance to spend six months training at a top stable.
One of the first graduates of the programme is young Irish star Bertram Allen, who finished third in last month’s World Cup Final.
“I heard about the academy through the World Class Development Squad [of which he is a member] and thought it looked like a brilliant opportunity,” George told H&H. “Fortunately I had a really good time at one of the selection shows in Lummen [Belgium, 10-11 April], where the three horses I took were all well placed [he came third and fourth in the CSI3*with Willeton and Loki], so it worked out very well for me.”
The 23-year-old, who is the nephew of showjumpers John and Michael Whitaker, the younger brother of William and cousin to Ellen and Robert, is yet to learn where he will be spending his six-month stint, but Kevin Staut, Ludger Beerbaum, Gerco Schroder and Ralf Goran Bengtsson are among the top riders offering training.
“I would love to spend the time at any of these yards,” continued George. “People pay thousands of pounds to go and train at places like these, so to be given the opportunity to go for free is amazing.”
When selecting their winners, as well as ability and potential in the saddle, the assessors – who included Dirk Demeersman, Otto Becker and Emile Hendrix – also looked at the candidates’ profiles, attitude and motivation.
In addition to top class training, the winner will also receive education in communication, business and economics, plus veterinary and legal practice related to showjumping.
The other riders selected for this year are: Adrian Van Gelderen (Belgium), Jonathan Gordon (Ireland), Nicole Holmen (Sweden), Irma Karlsson (Sweden) and Margeaux Rocuet (France).