From his secret weapon to his guilty pleasure, find out more about the showjumping course designer

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Who was your first pony?

His name was Tommy and he came from our local riding stables. He was a horror — always trying different ways of removing you from the saddle.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Irish coffee.

What is your most memorable event?

Without doubt, it’s the London Olympics. The honour of course — designing at the Olympics is wonderful, but to do it in your own country is unbelievable. It’s the event of which I’m most proud.

What is your secret weapon?

The team I work with. I couldn’t do any of this without them.

What is the best after-show party you have been to?

Nick Skelton’s post-Olympic party was something else. He held it at his yard and each stable had been transformed to represent a different nationality with food in each. We drank pink champagne until we’d run the place dry. Barrels of the stuff. Let’s just say the journey home the next day was very quiet…

What is your best bit of advice to riders?

For any rider tackling one of my courses, I’d tell them to say a small prayer beforehand.

What is your favourite meal?

Roast duck and a bottle of wine.

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What is your favourite show?

It’s difficult to choose one — I’m lucky to have designed at most of the top shows around the world.

What course-designing mistake have you learnt from?

I once put too much blue dye in the water jump. We then had one of our top riders fall in it and he came out looking like a Smurf.

Don’t miss our interview with Bob Ellis in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (19 May 2016), where he talks about looking forward to Rio, how he started his career and his modest ambitions for the future