She has a passion for Arab horses and has won Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) six times on different pure-breds; meet Hereford-based show producer Clare Fitch who hails from a non-horsey background and spends some of her time showing in the Emirates.
Check out the full interview with Clare in this week’s issue (20 December) of H&H magazine, out now.
1. She’s a northern girl
Now based at her picturesque farm in Herefordshire, Clare originally hails from Manchester and come from a completely non-horsey family. She started her equestrian journey when she started having lessons at a local riding school where she met Karen Talbot who taught her to ride.
2. The one who lit the fire
When Clare was 16, she purchased the part-bred Arab Gwyndy Fusilier from breeder Brenda Winstanley who offered her the ride on the pure-bred gelding Hanem. “That was it, I was hooked,” said Clare.
3. There was a decade between her first and second HOYS win
Her first HOYS win was in 2002 with Vicky Marsh’s late gelding Johara El Kheil but it wasn’t until 2012 that she was to win there again. “I did think that it would forever elude me,” she said. She has won the Arab title a total of six times. In 2015 she won the overall title with Eddy and Rick Warner’s stallion Patros HB and was also reserve with their mare Judlas Sweetest Kiss.
4. She met her partner on the Arab show circuit
Clare’s partner of 16 years is Arab show man Steve McCormick. Steve is an in-hand producer and also plays a huge part in the production of the ridden ponies. “Steve does all of the ground work with the youngsters,” said Claire. “And we also run our breeding programme together.”
5. Before the show ring
Prior to her career in showing, Clare worked in debt recovery for American Express.
6. The native team
Clare started her native journey in 2012 when Eddy Warner purchased the Highland Strathleven Drumochter. In 2016, the stallion — who was also champion at the Royal Highland Show — won at HOYS. Clare has other hugely successful native ponies on the yard, including Karen Johnson’s Welsh Cob Menai Eurostar and Brian and Ruth Roberts’ Fell Wildhoeve Okidoki.
7. Sourcing future champions
“When it comes to picking out future stars, we always like to work two years ahead, so we are always looking forward,” said Clare. Several of the team’s winners are related to the 21-year-old Ruger AMW who still resides on the yard. “We know what works and what type we like, so we stick with that,” she added.
8. Riding for Royalty
Team Fitch’s UK show season spans from April until October, and then from November until March, Clare and Steve will head out sporadically to the Middle East to show for clients. Clare’s 21-year-old daughter, Domenica, also lives in Qatar where Clare rides for Sheikha Maha Al Thani and Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Qatar.
“We usually go out a week before the show and it’s totally different out there. I used to go out for months at a time but I don’t like to be away from home for as long these days,” said Clare.
9. She is extremely superstitious
When on the road during show season, Clare and her great friend and employee admit that they are incredibly superstitious. “It took me two years to make her get rid of a numnah which was literally falling apart as it was her lucky one,” said Karen.“Every time we’ve won HOYS we’ve had the same stable and you will always find us parked in the same space at big shows,” said Clare.
10. ‘Look like a lion and ride like a lamb’
Clare said: “I like my horses to look all fiery and impressive and then ride with exceptional manners. Arabs must feel different to a riding horse and its so important judges know this. They must ride like an Arab with a certain gayness and lightness. They should be able to trot across ice and not break it.
“When buying potential show horses, we always say that when you go out to buy a pony, it’s got to walk around the corner and you’ve got to say ‘I love it’; we always go to see a horse not wanting to buy it.”
11. ‘They are treated like children’
When at home in Hereford, Clare takes a very hands on approach to running the yard. “We all completely live and breath it,” she said. “I love every bit of it, I love mucking out and I love doing for them everyday. They are treated like our children and most of the time, when they arrive they never leave.”
For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday