Tales from the H&H Champs: the former British high jump champion who took up riding three years ago — ‘People thought I was mad’

  • Wendy Harpur didn’t take up riding until three years ago, in her 40s.

    “I worked as a HR professional in the City in London for 20 years, and my husband is a keen golfer so I found myself to be something of a golf widow at the weekends,” says Wendy, who works Cambridge. “That’s when and why I decided to take up riding.”

    Wendy found a 17hh four year old ex-racehorse for sale online and decided to buy him.

    “‘Moby’ (or Aqua Jeter) had run in one National Hunt Flat race at Huntingdon, for trainer James Fanshawe, but he finished last of 14 starters — he can be very stubborn!” explains Wendy.

    In fact, the running comments for Moby’s race read: “Tailed off over 3f out, virtually pulled up”.

    “People thought I was mad buying him as neither of us really knew what we were doing,” says Wendy who was British high jump champion when she was 17 but had to retire due to injury. “But I had great support from my trainer Amanda Pett and together we’ve made huge progress.”

    But it hasn’t been all plain sailing for Wendy and Moby.

    “He’s got rubbish thoroughbred feet, so my farrier, Lee Collins, has been instrumental in getting those right. Then a couple of years ago Moby had an accident in the stable and broke his shoulder. He had to spend three months on box rest and at one stage we thought we might have to put him down,” says Wendy.

    Now standing at around 18hh, Moby and Wendy are tackling their first ever three-day event in the 80cm class at the Horse & Hound Grassroots Eventing Championships which also marks their first solo cross-country round.

    “We did a pairs hunter trial a few weeks ago but I fell off in the water — Moby is very honest and will jump anything I point him at, we’re just learning together — I never thought I would ever do cross-country and showjumping,” says Wendy who explains that riding is a good way to exercise her competitive side and that she would one day like to ride in the Olympics.

    “We stopped doing dressage competitions for about 18 months as we had a bad experience at one show where a judge gave us 47% and some particularly unhelpful comments,” says Wendy. “But when we decided to give this event a go we had to get back on with the dressage.”

    Wendy and Moby’s hard work seems to be paying off, as they posted a score of 36 (which translates to 64%) in the first phase of competition this weekend.

    Read the full report from the Horse & Hound Grassroots Eventing Championships in H&H — on sale Thursday, 1 June.

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