Horse & Hound caught up with Britain’s travelling alternate rider for the showjumping competition at the Tokyo Olympics at Royal Windsor Horse Show
“When I saw my dad in London , I didn’t know that in 2021 I could be giving it a go myself”, said Harry Charles, who will be following in the footsteps of his Olympian father Peter when he heads to Tokyo next month.
Yesterday (2 July), Harry was named as the travelling alternate rider for the British showjumping squad, making him, at age 22, the youngest member of the Olympic showjumping teams announced so far.
His father Peter Charles competed for Ireland in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics before switching his nationality back to British. He went on to secure gold for Team GB when he delivered the critical clear round at the London 2012 Olympics aboard Vindicat W.
“Seeing my dad compete in London was a real eye-opener for me, I saw what you could achieve and just how big the sport can be,” said Harry, who was 12 at the time.
Harry recalled how he had learned the art of sang froid from watching both Scott — who is renowned for his ice-cool nerve — and his father’s 2012 Olympic performance.
“One of biggest things I learned from my dad in London was watching how he behaved when he got off to a terrible start with the horse — he used some colourful language, but he was never worried,” Harry said.
“My mum was having a bit of a meltdown, but he said ‘don’t worry’. On the last day he it fell to him to jump [the critical] clear and he pulled it out of the bag without one bit of stress. I think my sisters [Scarlett and Sienna] and I saw that and picked up on it.
“Growing up, I like to think maybe inherited some of that coolness, though I am not quite as cool as Scott!”
Harry acknowledged that he could not have achieved his squad place without the benefit of his father’s experience, but that finding the right owner at the right time had also been critical.
“I couldn’t have done it without him, his help and his management have been super and he has been invested in it as much as I have.” Harry said.
“He knows exactly how you have to work to get there, especially during the last year of build up. It feels like we worked hard every day for it for the past two or three years.”
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While the lockdowns of the past 18 months had been “very frustrating”, the situation also presented new opportunities for Harry.
“I had to go back to working at home, training, and looking back at it now, I had some new opportunities; I had some time to bring in a completely new string of horses,” he said.
“I met a great woman, Ann Thompson, and took the ride on one of her best horses Romeo 88 [his Olympic ride]. I’ve been riding him for six months, he’s one of best horses I ever had and we’ve formed a great partnership.”
Keep in touch with all the action from Royal Windsor here on HorseandHound.co.uk, and don’t miss our in-depth analysis of the show in next Thursday’s Horse & Hound magazine.