Over the festive season, we are shining a light on up-and-coming talent across the equestrian disciplines. These are riders you really need to keep an eye out for during the 2020 season...
An interest in growing things tends to be stereotyped as an old person’s hobby, but 25-year-old event rider Alicia Hawker says she loves having house plants and flowers in pots.
“I don’t know where the obsession comes from, but if I’m sent to get food shopping, it comes with instructions not to buy a plant,” she laughs.
Alicia hit the headlines in 2019 with her eye-catching performances at the British five-stars. Riding her grandfather Robert “Bob” Hawker’s Charles RR, she finished 30th at Badminton and 16th at Burghley, with clear cross-country jumping rounds at both. Next year, she says her aim is to finish in the top 10 at Badminton or Burghley.
“I got Charlie, or King Charlie, as a five-year-old before he’d done any eventing. I remember doing his first BE90 and now we’ve done four five-stars — Pau, two Badminton and Burghley — he’s a star!” says Alicia.
“He’s like a big, kind dog and loves fuss and attention. He knows he’s king! As a young horse he was quite ‘challenging’ but now is a lovely horse to have around. Mum hacks him out — no one else gets a look in!
“To ride he is pretty ‘firey’ and headstrong. I have to think my way round his brain to get the best out of him, particularly on the flat. But this is what makes him so good across country — he is in charge, always looking, thinking and brave. There is no better horse to leave the start box on, in my very biased opinion.”
Charlie’s only rival for top dog on Alicia’s yard is her first horse, Nankin Des Ruettes (“Nonks”).
“Nonks retired from international competition this year at the last Gatcombe three-star,” says Alicia. “It was our seventh time round the three-star there and our 109th start together. I owe Nonks everything, he’s achieved so much and I’ve been very lucky to have him as my best mate to whizz around on for 10 years!”
Alicia is based at her family’s dairy farm near Malmesbury.
“The horses share with 1000 cows! My grandad — Robert “Bob” Hawker — used to breed and train racehorses alongside the farm in the 1970s and 1980s and my parents and aunty Roz used to ride out. I’ve now filled the stables with event horses. I live in the same village with my boyfriend Brad and we share with a couple of other people.”
Alicia has nine or 10 horses at her yard and rides a few extras who live with their owners. She also does a lot of coaching, which she says she really enjoys.
“This will be my third year doing horses full time,” she explains. “I did A levels at Malmesbury sixth form and then went to the University of Bath to do a sports performance degree. I lived at home so I could ride and pop to uni now and again! I am now building the business and a lovely team of horses.”
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Alicia says her parents Ann and Ashton are her number one supporters, with her mother helping out on the yard, at events and hacking out. Lewis Gudgeon is her “supergroom”, while Rhian Jones has trained her for jumping since she was six years old in the Pony Club. She is helped by Dickie Waygood and Mark Todd on the flat.
Her greatest ambition is to win Badminton.
“Being local this event is so special — more than the Olympics, Burghley or the World Championships — although winning them wouldn’t be bad either!” she jokes.
Aside from plants, Alicia likes to relax by having a lie-in and having friends round. She also loves to go on an adventure.
“Each November Brad and I pack a tent and book a flight somewhere, then wing it for a few weeks! I also love snowboarding and going to festivals,” she says.
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