In his final year as a young rider, Andrew Gould is already taking on some serious responsibilities, from which even some seniors might shy away.
Within the past six months, Andrew has moved into a new home with his long-time girlfriend, Polly Tipton, taken a loan out to buy a new lorry and set up shop at the Priory Equestrian Centre, at Frensham, Surrey.
They’ve also dived into the horse dealing pool.
Andrew has leased Priory’s 21-stable yard and facilities and plans are well underway to establish the venue, owned by property developers, Howard and Kim Miller, as a leading dressage competition centre.
The stables and fencing around the 20-acre site have been refurbished and the indoor 20x60m arena now boasts a new bar and restaurant, which serves home-made gourmet meals.
Although only 21, Andrew has already experienced the ups and downs of life as a dressage professional.
Four years ago, his successful partnership with the talented but sometimes truculent Danish-bred Koffee Break looked in danger of being dissolved when lack of family funds meant that the horse was put up for sale.
“A lot of people came to try Kofi, but most of them couldn’t ride one side of him – secretly, I was rather pleased,” he says.
Together with members of his family and close friends, Andrew launched a sponsorship group called the Koffee Club to help raise funds to keep the partnership intact.
Andrew admits that their relationship wasn’t always plain sailing.
“When I first got Kofi, he was horrible,” he says. “I remember getting off him in the middle of a field at a Pony Club show after he’d bolted with me. I walked off and refused to get on him everagain.”
It was David Hunt, his trainer, who persuaded Andrew to think again.
“He gave me a lecture about how any average rider could sit on an average horse and ride, but that wasn’t going to make me into a real rider.
“I took his advice and gradually learnt to sit in the saddle and not be frightened when he threatened to bolt. But it wasn’t until I was about 17 or 18 that I began to feel I had any control. Looking back, it was worth it because Kofi was probably the making of me,” he says.
Andrew, who was recently asked to join the British Dressage under-21s/BYRDS committee as the rider representative, has planned to come out at grand prix level in May and says that he feels confident of holding his own.
“I feel we’ve got nothing to lose and there is no pressure on us. Kofi is 13 now, he’s got good piaffe and passage and the changes are established, so we just need to get out there and do it.”
Looking to the future, Andrew admits there are more goals to aim for.
“I’m ambitious – I know what I want and I’m not going to give up easily. There’s always the worry about Kofi being injured because we couldn’t afford to replace him. It was a big thing for me to take out a loan with my father to buy a new £23,000 lorrybut I’ve realised you can’t play safe all your life.”