‘I’m a closet cowboy’: 8 things you never knew about Gareth Hughes

We catch up with British dressage rider Gareth Hughes, who will ride on next week’s European championships team with Classic Briolinca, and find out a few things about him you may not have known…

For a full interview with Gareth, make sure you pick up the latest issue of Horse & Hound magazine, out now (dated 15 August).

1. He almost didn’t become a dressage rider

Although Gareth was born in Britain, he grew up in Australia, near Brisbane. As a teenager he mostly showed Arabian horses and did western riding, though he admits he always had an obsession with dressage.

“I can still crack a stock whip, cook a Barbie and say ‘g’day’,” he confirms. “If I hadn’t been a dressage rider I’d have become a reiner — when I first came back to Britain I was umming and aahing about which route to go down.”

2. He came close to riding for Australia

He’s now one of Britain’s top riders and trainers, and won team medals at the European Championships in 2013 and World Equestrian Games in 2014, but during the early years of his dressage career he intended to ride for Australia.

“I have a British passport but I grew up in Aus and it felt like home,” explains Gareth, who admits he was asked to switch nationalities again before London 2012. “But although I had residency there I never took out Australian citizenship. I would have had to move back there to get an Australian passport but by then my business was already established over here, so I couldn’t.”

3. He still considers himself a ‘closet cowboy’

“I’ve still got a western hat and I like to dress up as a cowboy,” laughs Gareth. “I went to the world rodeo championships in Vegas a couple of years ago with friends and we properly cowboy-ed it up!

“I still think that one day maybe I will go back to doing that. But dressage is what I do right now and I love it.”

4. Individual medals have never been his aim

While proud to ride on a team for Britain, and keen to help bring home a team medal in Rotterdam, Gareth reveals that individual medals have never been his target.

“I have no ambition for individual medals, because I never thought I was good enough, to be honest,” he says. “All I’ve wanted is to have a horse who is world-class, mostly to prove to myself that I can do it.”

5. He’s in demand as a trainer

As well as a rider Gareth is also a successful and sought-after trainer, and has been to championships under various flags in a coaching role. He is currently dressage trainer for the Australian event team, and a technical advisor for the Swiss dressage team.

6. He considers himself an introvert

“If I was in a band I’d be the bass guitarist, not the lead singer,” reasons Gareth. “I’m quite introverted and I actually hate talking in public, and riding in public, but my job requires it.”

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7. Mowing the lawn makes him happy

Medals and money are not what drives Gareth.

“I’m not money orientated and I feel very fulfilled: I have a beautiful daughter who I’m very proud of, a nice property — I love coming home and driving through the gates into our place. I love mowing the lawn!” he reveals.

8. He takes an interest in other sports — including reining

“I watch a lot of other sports and I admire other sportsmen’s attitudes, such as Roger Federer and Andy Murray in tennis, and Michael Phelps in swimming,” says Gareth, who adds that he also follows the sport of reining. “For sportspeople the biggest thing is to have respect for your sport and for the people within your sport.”

For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday