11 moments Geoff Billington won’t forget in a hurry

  • This week’s guest editor of Horse & Hound’s showjumping special (on sale Thursday 31 March) has enjoyed four illustrious decades within the sport.

    Here are the moments that have stuck in his mind — plus a few he’d rather forget…

    1.     Making my first British team appearance aged 19 riding Talk Of The North in Poland.

    2.     Winning the Foxhunter final in 1986 at HOYS on Edisford Bridge and the grade C final in the same year. I had bought the horse from a friend — I’d made a deal one night in the pub. He’d never made it round a course when I bought him.

    3.     I won my first car — a Mercedes — when winning a grand prix on It’s Otto in Zurich in 1995. I kept it for 15 years before selling it to a friend.

    4.     Finishing best of the Brits at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 — I finished sixth with It’s Otto.

    5.      As part of the entertainment at shows, like Olympia, I used to do impersonations of my fellow competitors such as Jan Tops and John Whitaker — I would dress up as them as well. I used to do it as a way of getting to jump at shows — if I did the impersonations they would often let me in.

    6.      I had the privilege of meeting Princess Diana and William and Harry at Olympia one year after I had done the entertainment in the main arena. She was lovely and even told me, having watched the riders, she could recognise who I was impersonating.

    Continued below…

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    7.     I ticked a box when winning the Hickstead Derby in 2007 riding Cassabachus. I had been third the year before but had previously had a lot of attempts.

    8.     I was one of just four double clears at the 1999 European Championships which were held on home soil at Hickstead riding It’s Otto.

    9.     Watching my son James win team gold at the Junior European Championships in Vilamoura was a very proud moment and one I won’t forget.

    And some moments Geoff would rather forget…

    10.  On the final day of the World Cup final in 2000 in Las Vegas I took the wrong course — I was on target for a clear and eventual sixth place.

    11.  During the Nations Cup in Dublin one year, I was clear and just had to jump the final fence, It’s Otto jumped awkwardly over it and launched me out of the saddle. I landed on my back a few feet from the finish line.

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