I am very excited to be writing for H&H in the weeks running up to my first four-star event; the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (30 August-2 September). To say it’s a dream come true is an understatement.
As an introduction to my blogs over the next few weeks, I would like to tell you a bit about myself and the two mares that I am taking to Burghley. I have produced them myself since they were both four-year-olds and now they are entered for one of the world’s most prestigious four-star events!
I grew up in North Yorkshire, where my lovely mum, who wasn’t lucky enough to ride as a child, met my farmer father. Our small livery yard was home and my sister and I rode from a young age. Despite being younger than me, my sister was always the better rider, regularly scoring 10s in the dressage, much to my frustration! When I was 17, I followed the advice of my realist mother that there was no money in horses and I should get a “proper” job to support my expensive hobby!
I proceeded to study business at Leeds University, which I somehow managed to get a first in, despite spending most of my time riding or working at the local pub. Then I got a job for a local manufacturing company and spent nine years working as brand manager. My boss was more than understanding and supportive of my riding — him having an equally supportive horse enthusiast wife helped. I spent most of my time thinking about competitions, entering competitions or sporting broken limbs just in time for trade fairs, hobbling around on crutches or with a broken arm.
While working, I bought a weak, gangly four-year-old that no one else wanted. This horse is called Simply Clover (see video of her jumping clear around the CIC3* at Chatsworth this year below). We got to two-star level, then for some obscure reason I decided one pony wasn’t enough and I needed a project.
The “project” (Simply Smart) arrived and she was the TOTAL opposite to Clover — small, difficult and opinionated but with a massive heart. I later learnt that her mum had died when she was five-weeks-old so authority wasn’t in her vocab. But she won as a four-, five- and six-year-old and as she was a project, I decided that was then the time to cash in. However, as all horse people know, selling horses isn’t a walk in the park… she stayed, we carried on and we won our first CCI3* last year at Blair (pictured top). I went there with an open mind at a new level and it all went better than planned. Horses are so good at levelling you but achieving that made me really confident that my decision to give up my job and its income 18 months ago and that doing horses full-time was the right decision. If I could get the best out of her, I could get the best out of any horse. I now have two horses qualified for four-star in my first real go at being a “professional” — I’m living the dream.
However I now find myself six weeks away from the dream and reality is starting to hit. I genuinely feel a bit sick writing this thinking that in just six more blog’s time I will be packing up and setting off with my two ponies to do our first four-star.
I hope you enjoy following our journey.
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