“He’s a breath of fresh air compared with some others his own age,” says showjumper Julian Mincher of his 17-year-old stable jockey Ben Clark. “If there was a gold medal for hard work, he’d certainly win it.”
The teenage Team GB rider is currently in flying form on the winter show circuit and, with such a tremendous work ethic, looks set to go far in the showjumping world.
We caught up with Ben at this week’s CSI2* show in De Peelbergen in the Netherlands where he has a handful of horses to compete. But at a recent show at Chard Equestrian in Somerset, he and Julian travelled there for the day with four lorries containing 19 horses. Ben partnered 12 of them — it would have been 13 if the show hadn’t run out of light towards the end of the 1.40m class — and went home with a large haul of rosettes.
When he’s at home, Ben has around eight horses of his own to ride from his mother Kim’s training yard in Southampton, then travels to Julian’s Andover stables two afternoons a week to ride another dozen or so.
“There’s no typical day but there are quite a lot of horses to ride!” Ben tells H&H. “Julian’s staff tend to ride his horses on the flat so I just go over maybe twice a week to jump them. Then Julian and I tend to go to the same sort of day shows anyway, so between his horses and mine, I normally have about 13 horses to compete.”
Ben only started riding aged 12 — football being his first love — but since leaving school at 15 he’s represented Great Britain on the children-on-horses team at the European Championships and has jumped on junior Nations Cups teams. He is currently one of the sport’s most exciting young riders.
“I started riding for Julian when he broke his neck [in 2017] and helped him out then, while my mum was still training me at home,” says Ben. “Now I almost work for him — I ride for him usually twice a week and then ride some of his horses at shows.”
His aim for this year is to be selected for the junior European team and to claim a top-six placing in a world rankings class.
“At the minute we’re in Holland, where I’ve been jumping River Field Cornet Chin, a really nice five-year-old by Cornet Obolensky, and my team horse Jancovica is doing the 1.45m classes,” says Ben, who turns 18 in March. “I ride two really nice ones at Julian’s — the eight year old Doublem Chacco, who I’ve done a few 1.40m classes on, and his same age half-brother Doublem Chacco Lover, who I’ve done grands prix on.”
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As Julian sums up: “Ben is the most grounded young man I have ever met. He’s inherited that work ethic from his parents. He’s not from a wealthy family and is at work at 7am every day at his mother’s livery yard. When he arrives at my place, he’s also straight to work and if I’m busy teaching, he’ll start cleaning tack or tidying up.”
We really look forward to following Ben’s progress — he’s definitely an exciting name to watch.
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