In the Navy – a working rider’s diary

  • Katie Welch successfully combines working as a personnel selection officer in the Royal Navy with eventing a horse owned by the Saddle Club

    “I joined the Wrens as a rating in 1987 after taking A’ levels because I decided I wanted an exciting life. I served in three shore establishments before going to sea in 1990. We were sent to the Gulf War, but we saw very little action.

    Three years later I was awarded a commission and I have had a variety of roles since. As a personnel selection officer I interview and select Royal Marine and Royal Navy officer cadets.

    It’s only since I’ve been in the Navy that I have taken up eventing, although I rode as a child. I have never owned my own horse, but I would borrow horses to take part in local shows and Pony Club competitions.

    I didn’t ride for about three years after joining up. I joined the Saddle Club when I was posted to Yeovilton and was selected for show jumping teams. I then went to sea and it was seven years later when I joined the Portsmouth Saddle Club and got to show jump again.

    The Navy is keen to get people eventing, but few do because access to suitable horses is difficult. A couple of years ago, the Saddle Club bought a 10-year-old Irish-bred former steeplechaser called Ennistymon to event at the lower levels.

    I schooled and show jumped her, and at the beginning of 2000 I set off to Aldon for my first affiliated event. I entered the Military pre-novice, but ended up driving straight back to Portsmouth as she pulled off a shoe during the journey.

    In the summer we ran at Iping, but were eliminated on the cross-country three from home. On our next run, at Iping this year, we made no such mistake and finished on our dressage score. Unfortunately our dressage mark was rather poor.

    After working on my dressage I travelled to Larkhill a few weeks later and won the military section. Now I am hoping to do some novice events next year.

    I’m grateful to the Navy for giving me the opportunity to event, which I may not have had elsewhere. In my job you are expected to work hard, but you get to play hard too.

    Read more about event riders in the services in this month’s issue of Eventing magazine (October), or click here to subscribe.

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