Tomorrow (18 December), members of the UKAF Equestrian Association will do battle at Olympia Horse Show in the hotly contested services showjumping championship.
The top eight military riders will compete in two rounds of showjumping up to a height of 1.20m. These eight riders have the amazing opportunity to compete at Olympia after going through three qualifying competitions and a semi-final. All three services will be represented in this year’s championship, a feat which has only happened once in recent history. Competitors come from a range of ranks, with a couple of the riders being reservists as opposed to full-time regulars. So let’s meet this year’s riders and their horses…
Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Benjamin (Ben) Moore — King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery
Job: Currently working as a riding instructor at the Defence Animal Training Regiment, Melton Mowbray.
Highest equestrian achievement (so far): “Winning this class last year!”
Equestrian ambition: “To win again!”
What horse will you be riding at Olympia this year?: “Willows Clover Promise (aka Lucas). He is a 16.2hh Irish Sports Horse and a military working horse used to teach soldiers to ride at Melton Mowbray.”
How do you balance your military career with equestrian sport?: “It’s not easy but it’s just striking the balance of work, competitions and family life. Very busy!”
Major (Maj) Richard Chambers — The Life Guards
Job: currently working as the riding master for the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.
Highest equestrian achievement (so far): “Winning this championship at Olympia in 2016.”
Equestrian ambition: “To continue to develop the Armed Forces equestrian riders in all equine disciplines and to continue to demonstrate the quality of military working horses within the Army.”
What horse will you be riding at Olympia this year?: “High Tide, a 14-year-old Irish Sports Horse. As a military working horse, he has taken part in parade training for State ceremonial parades including the Major General’s Review of the Queen’s birthday parade.”
How do you balance your military career with equestrian sport?: “I am very fortunate — as the riding master I can work my horses between training the regiment’s officers, soldiers and horses.”
Sophie Fuller — Royal Navy Petty Officer (PO)
Job: Meteorological office manager at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset.
Highest equestrian achievement (so far): “First Royal Navy combination to win the Queen’s Cup at the Royal Tournament in 2018.”
Equestrian ambition: “I would like to win the services senior showjumping championship at Olympia. I take each day as it comes, but I would love to jump a 1.30m track at Hickstead too!”
What horse will you be riding at Olympia this year?: “Smiler is a 13-year-old Irish Sports Horse. We have been together for the past six years after I bought him as a very green seven-year-old. He had colic surgery in January this year so to still have him with us, and to be jumping better than before, is a blessing.”
How do you balance your military career with equestrian sport?: “Mostly with the amazing support from my mum who looks after the horses for me when I deploy. Without her I couldn’t do any of it — she is my biggest supporter and absolute rock!”
Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Elise Kidd — Royal Air Force
Job: Logistics officer currently working as area commander in the Wales and West Midlands for RAF recruitment and selection.
Highest equestrian achievement (so far): “I’m delighted to have qualified for the services showjumping championship at Olympia for the third year running.”
Equestrian ambition: “To still be riding into my old age!”
What horse will you be riding at Olympia this year?: “Villager (aka Bexxi) is 16-years-old and owned by Jackie Rowlands. Bexxi loves his job and you rarely come across a horse as genuine as he is. I’m very lucky to be given the ride on him — he absolutely looks after me and does his very best for me.”
How do you balance your military career with equestrian sport?: “The thing that makes riding in the military challenging is the postings and the periods of time spent away on deployments. With a very busy role and two children under five, owning my own horse just isn’t practical right now. I’m very lucky I met Jackie and she has been very supportive of me competing Bexxi in military equestrian events. I also have a huge amount of support from my sister Becky, her partner Graham and of course my long-suffering non-horsey husband Chris.”
Captain (Cpt) Emily Cooper — General Service Corps
Job: Army Reservist and also works for a property tech company in London.
Highest equestrian achievement (so far): “Being one of four shortlisted people for the Horse & Hound Amateur Rider of the Year prize. I have also represented Ireland in eventing.”
Equestrian ambition: “I would like to target a small showjumping grand prix at 1.30m in due course with Windfall. But most of all I just want to enjoy it and hopefully see his owners enjoy him and give them some great outings at some amazing shows like Olympia.”
What horse will you be riding at Olympia this year?: “His show name is Real Touch, but is known as Windfall or Windy. He is owned by Marie and Alex Von Sponeck. He is an Irish Sports Horse by Touchdown Charlie and has been owned by the Von Sponeck’s for five years.”
How do you balance your military career with equestrian sport?: “I only manage it because I have the support of the Alex and Marie Von Sponeck and the amazing team at Talland were the horse is based. I have a full-time job and my Army job to consider before I can even look at riding, so I simply could not do it if I did not have the support I do. The reality is that if I want to develop and continue to push up the levels, I cannot do it on my own.”
Lance Corporal (LCpl) Holly Hall — Army Reservist for the Royal Logistics Corps as a supplier
Day job: exercising racehorses for George Peckham in Newmarket.
Highest equestrian achievement (so far): “Being selected for an Army Sports Control Board scholarship and getting through to the British Showjumping National Amateur and Veteran Finals at Newmarket this year, where we were placed in the 1.05m class.”
Equestrian ambition: “I am happy with how I am going at the moment. I am getting more confident at Foxhunters and currently we are jumping Newcomers second rounds.”
What horse will you be riding at Olympia this year?: “WKD San Remo is a 16.1hh nine-year-old old Irish Sports Horse. She is very sweet and affectionate on the ground and loves a good groom.”
How do you balance your military career with equestrian sport?: “If I am away with the Army or work my mum pretty much does everything! She team chases my other horse Naples too.”
Lance Corporal (LCpl) Laura Charley — 16 Signal Regiment
Job: This year’s youngest competitor at 19-years-old, Laura is a signaller.
Highest equestrian achievement (so far): “Qualifying for Horse of The Year Show (HOYS) in ponies in the newcomers and Foxhunter finals”
Equestrian ambition: “I would love to qualify again for HOYS, this time in horses.”
What horse will you be riding at Olympia this year?: “I will be riding my own Vices Versa (or Seth as he is known at home). He is 17-year-old and goes hunting a lot. He really is an old plod who knows and loves his job a lot, which will help, as with work commitments, I will only have a week to get back with him before Olympia.”
How do you balance your military career with equestrian sport?: “My mother is a huge help as she lunges the horses during the week and also takes them for the occasional ride.”
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Corporal of the Horse (CoH) Andrew Mancey — Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment
Job: Andrew is currently serving with the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment on the regiment permanent cadre, training horses and personnel enabling them to carry out state ceremonial activities.
Highest equestrian achievement (so far): “Winning the best military rider under-21 title in 2011 and also completing the advanced military equitation course at Melton Mowbray.”
Equestrian ambition: “This really is my ambition! Riding at Olympia has always been a dream of mine.”
What horse will you be riding at Olympia this year?: “I will be riding a military working horse called Paaderberg, who I have been riding for the past 18 months, and she is proving to be a horse of a lifetime. Although she is ridden by myself day-to-day, she also has to carry out all ceremonial duties. After Olympia she will be turned out for a well-deserved break in the fields of Melton Mowbray.”
How do you balance your military career with equestrian sport?: “Fortunately with Paaderberg being a military working horse I get to ride her during work hours. Finding time for competitions, however, can be difficult with ceremonial commitments throughout the year.”
Don’t miss H&H’s extensive coverage. Check out dressage and Wednesday-Saturday showjumping reports in the 28 December issue (out Friday, not Thursday this week because of Christmas schedules), while showing, driving and Sunday showjumping coverage will be in the 3 January 2019 issue.