H&H rising star: event rider Zoe Wilkinson

  • H&H chats to Zoe Wilkinson, who has enjoyed a super season eventing, about her set-up, her top horses and her goals for the future.

    How old are you?

    Where are you based and what is your set-up?
    We are based just outside Faringdon, Oxon, at a yard called New Barn Farm, which we rent from Mark Stoneham. My business partner, Emma Owen, and I together make up E.Z. Equestrian. As a sideline to the competition horses we offer various livery packages, schooling, sale preparation, breaking in and have a number of horses on full turnout all year. Emma takes control of the majority of the “business” side, meaning I can stay more focused on the horses. We also currently house and care for the Parkfield Breeding broodmares and youngstock, which can prove rather distracting at times!

    What are your best results?
    CIC* wins at Aldon 2013 (GHS Calvaruise), Rockingham 2014 and Brightling Park 2014 (Parkfield Quintessential); sixth six-year-old World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers (Parkfield Quintessential); second Bicton intermediate and third Pontispool) intermediate 2014 (GHS Calvaruise).

    Tell us about your top horses
    GHS Calvaruise (Peanut) is a 16.3hh, nine-year-old Irish sport horse gelding by Cavaliere. I bought him from Goresbridge Sales when he was five and have brought him on myself since then. This season he was placed at CIC2* level and we completed our first advanced. He is very cheeky and definitely thinks life is a big joke, it can be hard work getting the best out of him! He is talented in all three phases, but he can have a lazy attitude towards his work which lets him down.

    Parkfield Quintessential (Quinty) is a 17hh, six-year-old British-bred warmblood gelding by Quicksilber. He is bred and owned by Parkfield Breeding (Sharon, Nigel and Holly Bishop). I broke him in when he was a youngster and have brought him on through the grades myself. This year he won two CIC*s and was sixth in the young horse World Championships in Le Lion d’Angers.

    He has a super attitude to life and to his work, he is always unbelievably happy and is a real trier. When he does decide he doesn’t want to do something though he does throw an enormous strop! He is exceptionally talented and has a good brain. His weaknesses would be that he can be a bit slow-thinking and he can be tricky to get completely straight, soft and good in the contact for the dressage.

    What are your aims for next year with your top horse?
    With GHS Calvaruise I am aiming to get us both established at advanced level, to have a good result at a spring CCI2* and hopefully look at stepping up to three-star.

    With Parkfield Quintessential I am aiming to establish him at intermediate level and step him up to two-star, with the end aim being the seven-year-old World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers.

    Are you on any funding programmes?
    Parkfield Quintessential is on the Equine Pathway scheme. He was put on in the second half of this season so we’ve only attended one training day so far but I’m looking forward to attending more next year.

    I was also lucky enough to win the Mark Todd Bridging the Gap Scholarship just over a month ago, which will help me enormously over the next year, with generous support from Sir Mark Todd, the Mark Todd collection and Keyflow feeds.

    Who trains you?
    For dressage I have recently started training with Stef Eardley. For jumping I have been trained for several years now by Ros Morgan.

    When did you start riding? Are you from a horsey family?
    I’m not from a particularly horsey family although my mum used to ride before my sister Emma and I were born, and some of my extended family are quite horsey. When I was eight years old Emma and I started pestering our parents for riding lessons and they eventually gave in (probably a decision they regret now!).

    We progressed from lessons to loaning a pony. When we hit our teens Emma started concentrating on her studies a bit more, but I just wanted to ride horses all the time. I used to ride a lot of the naughty ponies at the riding school, Wickstead Farm, and when I was 13 I got asked to ride and bring on a young ex-racehorse called Valdasho, who then became my first event horse.

    When did you decide to make eventing your career?
    I was fairly confident even when I first started eventing at 14 that it was what I wanted to do, but I think I absolutely made the decision when I was 16. I had left school and was working for Paul Tapner. It was very hard work and took over my life but I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do from then.

    What is your ultimate aim in eventing?
    I want to represent my country and win medals and I want to win at four-star level. I want to do that from being the best horseperson, the best trainer and the best rider. I would love to be looked at in the future in the same way many people look at Michael Jung now — as a total genius on a horse.

    And just for fun…

    Your favourite food?
    I love all food! I’d say desserts are my weakness, either cheesecake or chocolate fudge cake.

    Your favourite drink?
    Non-alcoholic (!) — orange juice and lemonade (together). Alcoholic — either Archers and lemonade or Baileys.

    Your most embarrassing moment in eventing?
    Peanut once bucked me off in the dressage warm-up at Aldon when he was a six-year-old. Also this year he decided halfway around the showjumping course at Hambleden that he’d had enough and stood in the corner rearing and bucking until we were eliminated — after a 25 dressage too!

    What’s on your iPod?
    Mostly pop/dance music, basically anything I can sing (badly) along to or dance to. I’m also a sucker for a good Disney song!

    If you had 24 hours before the world combusted, what would you do?
    Have some fun jumping a couple of horses first. Then set up a marquee, get together as much food and drink as possible and have a massive party with all my friends and family.

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