Robert, who showed his first hunter at Wembley at the age of 16, knows he has a talent for riding horses in the ring, but puts most of his success down to something far simpler. Good, old fashioned hard work.

“It¨s a bit strange, but when we get complacent at home we seem to do badly at shows. Then, when we¨ve worked hard, we win.”

As a child growing up in East Yorkshire, Robert had the work ethic drummed into him by his father, Tony, who is a renowned nagsman.

“He¨s one ofthose people who believes in giving someone a hard time to make them better, which prepared me to start my own business,” he says.

The stylish rider began his showing career on the lead-rein, quickly progressing to ridden classes and up throughthe ranks to 14hh ponies.

Even then, Robert couldn¨t get to sleep at night if he felt he had let his pony down that day.

“I¨ve always had a great passion for showing and I can remember sitting at the edge of the ring at the Yorkshire Show, watching David Tatlow and Robert Oliver riding and saying to one of my friends, ¨one day I¨m going to be like them¨.”

Robert graduated to horses at the age of 15 and it was then his schoolwork started to suffer.

“They¨d just bought in a GCSE in PE and that was the only one I passed in the end. If I hadn¨t chosen a career with horses, I would have liked to be a PE teacher.”

Skiving off

The school was next to Beverley racecourse, and as Robert got older, he and his friends got more rebellious. They used to sign in for registration after lunch and then spend the rest of the afternoon on the racecourse.

As a teenager, Robert was a keen football fan, playing in Hull City Football Club¨s junior sideand going to watch the senior team play matches at home.

Now, he supports Liverpool, and believes his interest in the game and any other sport was what stopped him being teased about riding at school.

“I think my classmates used to respect me because I was so dedicated, they never took the Mickey.

Robert describes how he left school at 16 and started to work full-time on his father¨s yard.

At first, the partnership worked with Robert winning prizes at many county shows. And in 1995, Robert was nominated as the Martini Young Rider of the Year. A title he is proud of as candidates were selected from every sphere of the equestrian world.

But cracks in the relationship soon started to show.

“We used to argue all the time, we¨re too alike. I think he secretly wanted me to take over the yard. But it¨s too far away from the big shows and I knew I had to start out on my own.”

Robert then moved in with girlfriend Sarah at her parents¨ place in Cheshire.

It¨s a decision that Robert has never regretted. Sarah is an accomplished show rider herself who trained at Jennie Loriston-Clarke¨s Catherston Stud and it is clear they are both committed to getting the best out of the horses.

“I¨m striving for perfection so there¨s a lot of sweat and tears. If I get in tired and think I¨ve done a hard day¨s work I can relax.”

The serious look passes and the cheekiness returns. “Sarah does moan, though, because all I talk about is horses!”