Meet Jock Paget — eventing’s new superstar

  • Jonathan Paget (Jock) couldn’t do rising trot 10 years ago. Yesterday he scooped the coveted Burghley title only 4 months after winning Badminton at his first attempt

    Jonathan Paget (Jock), 29, completed a phenomenal Badminton-Burghley double yesterday (8 September 2013) when he claimed the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials title on Frances Stead’s Clifton Promise.  And he now has the opportunity to go for the Rolex Grand Slam at Kentucky next spring.

    For those who know Jock, this level of success isn’t such a surprise — he was being heralded as “the next Mark Todd” even at the 2010 World Equestrian Games.

    Early days

    Jock was born in Wellsford, New Zealand, moving to Sydney when he was 3. He grew up there with his mother, who showjumped in her youth. Being a single mum of 3, there was no question of being able to send Jock for riding lessons.

    When he was 18, his father moved to the foot of the Blue Mountains outside Sydney and bought a horse. Jock determinedly started riding with him, despite falling off all the time. He ended up doing this for money on weekends — riding in rodeo competitions.

    A career in horses  

    When Jock left school at 15, his mother insisted he learn a trade, and by 19 he was a qualified bricklayer. His love of horses dragged him away from cement, and at 20 Jock went to work for Australian rider Kevin McNab in Queensland — despite having never jumped a fence.

    Jock did the fitness work since he couldn’t school the horses, earning very little and learning a great deal.

    After a year, Kevin gave Jock a young horse to produce — Kelecyn Stiff Drinks, who he took to 3-star level.

    After 3 years, Jock went his own way with Kevin’s blessing, and the following year — 2007 — he started riding a youngster called Clifton Promise for Frances Stead of Clifton Eventers.

    The turning point

    Jock campaigned Promise for the 2010 World Equestrian Games, an unrealistic goal given his lack of mileage — the horse had gone from novice to 3-star in 3 months.

    The New Zealand Equestrian Federation were only able to help with costs of campaigning horse who were eventually selected. So Jock took a risk, racking up large debts bringing Promise to England to qualify. He based himself at businessman and eventer Joe Giannamore’s place in Surrey.

    Jock scraped through to be selected by the skin of his teeth, but once at the Worlds, Promise pulled off the best dressage test of his career — scoring 44 — and jumped double clear to finish 7th.

    Hanging on to Promise

    This set Jock up for Olympic selection, for which he needed to be based in Britain. He stayed with 5 top Clifton horses, but to fund this needed to sell Promise.

    After 9 months, they didn’t have a buyer — the horse isn’t the easiest to ride, and Jock has quite the partnership with him — and so Promise joined the London campaign. Once there, he helped teammates Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd to team bronze.

    And so Jock headed to Badminton, not the favourite, but quietly confident. And while everyone else was watching Michael, or William, or Andrew, he snuck up the leaderboard and reminded us that eventing is a sport, not a foregone conclusion, and young kiwis should never be ruled out.

    In August Jock proved his Badminton success was only the beginning by winning the British Eventing Open Championship at Gatcombe on Clifton Lush.

    And when he won Burghley yesterday, he cemented his position as one of eventing’s biggest names, acheiving the Badminton-Burghley double in a single year for the first time since 1989, when Ginny Elliot and Master Craftsman won both events.

    Jonathan Paget factfile

    Rider: Jonathan Paget (Jock)

    Date of birth: 17 November 1983 (29)

    Top advice: Work hard, be trainable, and be nice to people

    Training mantra: Sit still in front of the fence — don’t kick, shove or pull, just soften your hand and put your leg on

    Trainers: New Zealand coach Erik Duvander, and riders Kevin McNab, Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson, Michael Jung

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