Festive stars: Will Morton – ‘I went straight into horse classes aged 15, and it was the best decision I could have made’

  • Over this festive season, we’re getting to the scoop on a few up-and-coming riders across the equestrian disciplines. These are a select few individuals you really need to keep an eye out for during 2022. Here we meet Will Morton…

    At just 24 years old, showing specialist Will Morton is becoming one of the most consistent riders in horse ranks known for his ability to switch between classes and get the best out of his rides. In 2021, he achieved an impressive nine tickets to Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), finishing with several top 10 placings, including a second in the large riding horse of the year final with Paul and Frances Atkinson’s home-bred D’Aamascus.

    Will grew up on his family’s farm in Derbyshire and hails from horsey stock.

    “My mum’s family had horses and we mainly hunted and did local shows when I was a kid,” explains Will. “I did the odd bit of eventing and some working hunter classes but I mainly played around with my ponies and had fun.”

    Interestingly, Will didn’t contend the pony circuit as most professionals do during their youth, but first became serious about the show ring aged 15 when partnered with the lightweight show cob Woodfield Choice (Cobba), who was sourced by his mum, Alison Morton, from Shelly Argyle.

    “Going straight into the horse classes ended up being the best thing I ever did,” says Will, who first rode at HOYS in 2013 in the SEIB Search For A Star finals aboard Cobba, with the pair eventually winning their class and standing section reserve. The following year, at age 17, Will qualified Cobba for the HOYS lightweight cob final on his second attempt after winning their class at Cheshire County.

    “At the time I was doing A-Levels in the hope of becoming a vet,” adds Will. “I didn’t like school; I hated the structure and the fact that when you got up in the morning you’d know what to expect of the day ahead. In 2014, I had a great year and won quite a lot, finishing the season with a 2nd at HOYS with Cobba. After this, I knew I wanted to work with horses. One evening, I sat down and emailed every single top producer I could think of in the hope of finding a yard to gain some experience.”

    Will eventually secured a place with Katie Jerram-Hunnable’s team and after finishing his 2014 term as an amateur, he moved up to Katie’s base, Collins Farm, with Cobba.

    “Katie gave me an insight into the workings of a professional yard, such as running several horses at one time and the importance of turnout. I stayed with Katie for two years and had some real experiences which I will never forget.

    “Winning the Great Yorkshire show in 2016 with Cobba was one of my career highlights; even though it’s my local show I’d never been before and the crowd was incredible. Being next to some of my idols, such as Robert Walker, in the ring and winning was a real ‘WOW’ moment.”

    When he had learnt the trade, Will worked as a hunting groom for a few months at the yard of Essex Hunt master Christopher Padfield.

    “I decided that I didn’t just want to be someone in the background and so set out to set-up on my own,” Will explains. “I moved to the yard I’m at now, Peverill’s Farm, in March 2017 to look after hunt horses for the senior master of the Essex with Farmers and Union, Andrew Smith. I also took on some more clients, including Sarah Tait, who has been one of the most supportive people in my journey.

    “During lockdown, Andrew retired so I took over renting the yard and needed to make the business start to pay. I added some more stables and began the 2021 show season with three showing clients as well as some hunting and schooling liveries. We had a great start to the season and everything escalated from there.”

    Looking ahead to 2022, Will’s novice squad will return to the forefront as open rides and he’s excited about a couple of new stars, including a four-year-old heavyweight show cob sourced from Ireland and a small riding horse, who is full brother to D’Aamascus.

    “It’s one of the busiest times of the year for me at the moment,” says Will. “I’ve got plenty of young horses in and I’m out regularly with the Essex with Farmers and Union as amateur whip.”

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