10 secrets of winning event rider Flora Harris

  • The winner of this year’s Equi-Trek Bramham CCI3* Horse Trials tells all.

    1. Flora’s not a big fan of holidays. Fortunately, nor is her boyfriend, Jeremy Scott.

    “The last holiday we went on was supposed to be a week-long break in Egypt. We managed three days lying on the beach before I started getting restless and thinking about all the things I could be doing at home with the horses,” she laughs. “We booked ourselves on the next flight home.”

    2. Flora’s also not a morning person.

    “I can get up and ride, but don’t talk to me before 9am – I’m no good at conversations before then,” she says.

    3. One of the worst days of her life came in March this year when her beloved whippet, Willow, was shot in her back garden.

    “I was away competing in France at the time and my friend was house-sitting for me. We had the gunshot wound analysed afterwards and found out that the bullet came from a .22 rifle – not the kind of gun that would be used for rabbiting or lamping,” she says. “That meant that someone had got into the garden and shot her deliberately. I was distraught.”

    4. Flora says she has a 100% honesty policy when it comes to communicating with owners, trainers and the rest of her team.

    “And I expect the same in return. There was a funny moment at the beginning of this year when Jon [Pitts, human performance coach and Flora’s mentor] sat me down told me that I needed to lose some weight. My friends gave him a bit of stick, but I just did it – and started riding better as a result,” she smiles.

    5. AP McCoy is Flora’s greatest inspiration.

    “I’m not a racing fanatic at all, but for one man to dominate such a tough sport for as long as he has is unbelievable. His attitude and consistency are things I really admire – that’s what I want to try to emulate.”

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    6. Flora would like more horses to compete, but says Bayano (pictured at Bramham) really benefitted from the extra time she was able to give him in the run-up to Bramham.

    “I rode him twice a day. In the afternoons I would stay in walk and practice loads of transitions between extended and medium walk,” she explains. “He’d got a bit tight in the arena a couple of times earlier in the season, but by Bramham he was totally relaxed about it.”

    7. Flora didn’t belong to a Pony Club; neither did she benefit from a succession of pony schoolmasters.

    “My family isn’t horsey, so although I had ponies, they were never very suitable,” she laughs. “I did a fair bit of showjumping with one of them – but in the four years I had him we never won a penny!”

    8. Flora’s first yard move after leaving Somerset four years ago was to Cropredy in Northamptonshire, where she was asked by Jane Keir, the owner of her first four-star horse, Law Choice, to help set up a bloodstock stud.

    “I went on a course at Newmarket and was responsible for foaling four very valuable, thoroughbred mares,” she reveals. “I don’t think I slept for the whole of February – I was so terrified I’d miss something!”

    9. Despite scoring in the 30s in the dressage at Tattersalls and Bramham, Bayano hasn’t always found this phase easy.

    “He’s always had a natural push from behind, but until recently he wouldn’t take the contact forward and I had nothing in my hand,” says Flora. “Andrew [Fletcher] has taught me how to get him connected and the transformation has been incredible.”

    10. Flora says her secret weapon is her head girl, Charlotte Aitken.

    “I think she’s the best there is,” she says. “She is so knowledgeable and the horses absolutely adore her. I have other riders ringing me and asking whether they can send their grooms to our yard so she can give them some advice.”

    Get the latest issue of Horse & Hound (9 July 2015) to see behind the scenes of Flora’s yard in Access All Areas

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