‘Eventing is my escape’: Meet the British elite amateur holding a top-10 spot after day one at Luhmühlen

  • Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials five-star first-timer Max Gordon was on top of a mountain thousands of miles from Goresbridge sales when the auctioneer’s hammer fell for lot 31.

    “I remember it very vividly,” said elite amateur Max, who was sitting on top of Machu Picchu nine years ago, when he heard over the phone that his parents, Marissa and Richard Gordon, had secured the promising four-year-old.

    The horse was Redwood Clover, who makes his five-star debut with Max Gordon at Luhmühlen Horse Trials this week.

    “My parents actually found him. I was away at the time so Ben Hobday had a sit on him for us – I’ve known Ben since we were kids. Ben said that he liked his jump, so we went for it,” explained Max.

    Max, 31, a barrister, has dreamt of riding at five-star since he was a child.

    “It’s always been my ambition, since I started eventing as a kid,” he said. “It’s a little surreal to be here, but it is also a long time coming. I’ve really wanted it for so long and almost had it with other horses and then had things go wrong – I’ve been injured, horses have been injured, I got qualified and then there was Covid – so I’ve just not quite made it [until now].

    “I’m very lucky to have a horse like him. He’s a fantastic jumper. We have a great partnership, coming up together for nine years.

    “You never know if they are going to be five-star capable until you get there.”

    The pair have progressed through the levels together, jumping clear at every international cross-country start, and have 11 international double clears on their CV.

    Their first phase score of 36.6 puts them in provisional ninth place overnight, ahead of the second day of dressage at Luhmühlen.

    “It’s not his favourite section of the competition, but we’ve been progressively getting better and I was quite happy with it,” said Max.

    “He tried, and I tried to be brave and to leave everything out there.”

    He added: “It means a lot to fulfil [the five-star dream] for everybody, everyone knows it’s the team, not just the horse and rider, but there are a multitude of people both here and supporting from back home, who have been really kind.

    “I’m very conscious that I’m an amateur and I do it in my spare time, so I’m just hoping to hold my own and have fun with it.”

    Max added that the fact he is able to be here is testament to his supportive family and partner, Chantelle Barker.

    “I’m very dedicated to my career,” he said. “Equally, I’m self-employed, so I try to manage my time and I’m just very lucky that I’ve got the support system I have.

    “It’s just about workable, but only with everyone helping us like they do.

    “Eventing is my let-out, it’s my escape. Some of the pros that I’ve grown up with and I’m good friends with have got into golf recently. They say, ‘do you play? You should come!’, but this is my golf! I’m not at work here like those guys are.

    “I like to be busy, I’ve always been like that. Now and then it’s a bit manic. It’s a lot of early mornings and late nights, just like any other rider here, everyone is very busy.”

    He added that the family involvement and the fact that he is here on a home-bought, home-produced horse makes this week extra special.

    “It’s my parents’ passion as well, they love it. My dad is my work rider, he does the galloping in the week when I can’t,” said Max.

    “My mum still keeps her horse, my dad used to have his own event horses and now he just likes riding mine at home. I couldn’t do it without them.”

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