Meet the cover stars – Harry Charles and Romeo 88: ‘He really fights for you in the ring’

  • Harry Charles is just 22 years old, but he has a string of horses many older showjumpers would envy, with four stars who could be potential contenders for the showjumping World Championships in Herning this summer. But if he had to pick a mount for the showdown right now, Harry says it would be Romeo 88, who was his partner on his senior championship debut at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

    The pair feature on this week’s Horse & Hound cover (dated 17 February), with a feature inside the magazine about Harry’s set up at Heathcroft Farm, where he works alongside his father, London 2012 team gold medallist Peter Charles, and siblings Sienna and Scarlett.

    Ann Thompson’s Romeo 88 is a 13-year-old bay gelding by Contact Van De Heffinck. He was ridden by Ireland’s Darragh Kenny in 2019 and 2020, joining Harry in December 2020. The pair quickly started turning in results and were selected as Britain’s alternate pair for the Tokyo Olympics.

    “Very luckily Ann paired me up with him so I was given a great opportunity to ride a very established horse, certainly one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden, if not the best,” said Harry after his selection.

    “From when I started riding him, the goal was always to make it to Tokyo and for six months we made a game plan for him and got to know each other.

    “I really believe it takes between six and nine months to get to know a horse properly. We have a great partnership now and know each other inside out. He’s a fantastic horse, a great fighter, with a great heart and a great mind as well – three of the things I’d look for in a horse and he has all three.”

    Out at the Games, Harry and Romeo were called up to jump in the individual competition and managed to pull off a clear in the first round. Things unravelled for them in the individual final and Harry retired, but they had to jump in the team rounds after Scott Brash’s ride Jefferson incurred a minor strain. Harry managed to rebuild the horse’s confidence to complete both rounds for the team.

    “What makes Romeo so special would be his attitude and his fight,” said Harry. “In the stable he’s quite a grumpy character but it’s all show. He never actually bites, he just has the ears back.

    “He actually loves attention and a bit of affection as well, even though he might not like to admit it. But when he gets in the ring he really fights for you.”

    Harry’s star has been in the ascendant since Tokyo, with a big win at Horse of the Year Show and a double in the feature classes at the London Horse Show at ExCeL, so we can’t wait to see what this year holds for him and Romeo 88, as well as his other horses.

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