Simon Charlesworth’s unique treble at Royal Windsor, where he became the first rider to take the hack, cob and riding horse [pictured] championships, must be one of the triumphs of 2014 — and we’re not even halfway through the season.
I doubt his feet have touched the ground since.
It’s wonderful to have purple patches where you have a team of fabulous horses and each is on top form. We all need a bit of luck, but horses still have to perform and the combination of skill, cool nerve and consistency Simon demonstrated was a lesson to all.
He is, of course, now a professional in his own right, working for Steve Pitt and Vicky Smith in Newmarket. But he’s also one of many young riders to have been trained by Jerome Harforth, so is a graduate of what we’ve nicknamed the Harforth Academy.
It’s hard enough to train a horse, let alone a groom or rider, but all the Harforth graduates we’ve met or been lucky enough to employ have been capable, efficient and good with people.
I wish all the college trainees who spend short work experience periods with us were as good. Some show maturity and willingness to learn and I’ve been particularly impressed by students from Hadlow College, Kent. Sadly, others make me wonder why they are studying for a career in the equine industry.
One said that she was at college for “the social life”, while others expect a 9 to 5 lifestyle. We try to explain that no one wants to see staff exploited, but horses don’t do office hours and that, while it’s great to have ambition, you have to be a team player.
I’m not having a go at colleges, but any young person who gets the chance to learn from someone who knows how to succeed in a particular discipline, and knows how to get the best out of any horse, should seize it. Colleges have lots to offer, but a mentor is invaluable: completing a college course will set you up for working experience, but will not be a substitute for it.
Ironically, I’m about to go back to the classroom, spending five days completing my certificate of professional competencev [CPC] in driving a horsebox. If you drive as part of earning your living, remember that the deadline for obtaining a CPC is September.
I’m not looking forward to the 7hr a day sessions, which cover everything from first aid to tachographs, but I can see that it’s essential to keep up to date. There’s no exam at the end of it — though a certificate can be withheld if you aren’t considered competent — and once you’ve done the initial five days, either as separate modules or in a block, you only have to do one day a year.
Not everyone wants to drive as well as compete. Apparently there are qualified drivers who will take the strain by coming to your yard, driving you and your horses to a show and driving you home again. Many competitors have to be careful they don’t break tachograph rules, so could a showing chauffeur be the answer for those who can afford it?
The past few weeks have been incredibly busy, as so many shows are crammed into a small space in the calendar. Some organisers say they don’t get enough entries because date clashes mean too much competition for entry fees.
I’ve also heard claims that when entries are low, qualifiers are devalued, but is that true? I’d be interested to hear readers’ feedback and any ideas on how the dates problem could be solved. Are there simply too many shows?
We all have our favourites. If I had to choose one show I couldn’t do without, it would be Royal Windsor: I get more pleasure from riding there than at any other. Apart from the wonderful backdrop and atmosphere, it’s a show where you see so many exciting new partnerships and realise that no matter how difficult things seem sometimes, showing has a future.
Great Yorkshire comes high on most riders’ lists and I hear widespread enthusiasm for Royal Bath and West. I’ll cast another of my votes for Suffolk, which is such a horse-friendly show; the sandy going is excellent and the new jumping/collecting ring near the second ring was excellent.
Let’s hope our county shows thrive for many years to come. They are not only important for riders, but bring in visitors who may never come into contact with horses — and though equestrian disciplines tend to live in their own bubbles, we mustn’t forget that.