Top-class horses, kisses and sugar lumps – behind the scenes at an elite showjumping yard

  • Earlier this month, H&H paid a visit to the Oxfordshire yard of high-flying showjumping brothers Will and Olli Fletcher. It was a brief interlude at home just north of Lambourn in between Will’s trip south to the Sunshine Tour, and Olli’s flight to Doha for his first experience of the Global Champions League.

    We hope you enjoy this exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the yard, meeting some fabulous horses with fascinating backstories. Don’t miss the full interview in the current issue of the magazine (22 February).

    1.  “I owe Percy everything”

    Will and Olli Fletcher: Will at home with Persimmon

    Will with 19-year-old Persimmon (Percy), who finished fourth at the European Eventing Championships with Kitty King before switching to showjumping and winning young rider medals with Will.

    2. Hello William’s party trick

    Olli Fletcher with Hello William

    Olli has taught his top horse Hello William to kiss him on command. Olli has an especially strong bond with the 12-year-old by Waldo Van Dungen, who started his career as an event horse. He recovered from colic last season to be placed in a five-star grand prix.

    3. The boys run separate yards – and separate businesses

    Will Fletcher with Israel at his stables

    Will, pictured with one of his top rides, Israel, keeps his string in a row of new exterior stables decorated with pretty purple hanging baskets, while Olli houses most of his horses in an indoor barn.

    4. Sweet treats

    Tina Fletcher gives Hello William a sugar lump

    Mum Tina offers Hello William a sugar lump after his jumping session.

    5. Polework coincides with flat sessions

    Will Fletcher doing polework on Quintine Van D’Abdijhoeve

    Will puts Quintine Van D’Abdijhoeve through her paces over raised poles

    Besides a large 40x85m outdoor school, where they do most of their jumping training, there is a smaller arena for flatwork and polework.

    “They do plenty of polework as it keeps them athletic and gets the muscles working properly, without putting too much stress on them,” says Tina, who coaches her two sons.

    6. An all-weather track circumnavigates the paddocks

    Will and Olli Fletcher cantering on all-weather track

    The Fletchers’ dad, Graham, laid down a canter track using the old surface of the school when they were renovating it. It offers a useful alternative to hacking. Here Olli rides Kandoo Z, an eight-year-old owned by Will, ahead of Will riding Quintine Van D’Abdijhoeve (Clover).

    7. Love is in the air

    Olli Fletcher with Love

    Olli has a soft spot for the delightful eight-year-old Love (Diamant De Semilly x Heartbreaker). This pretty little mare is “so scopey” and will step up to rankings classes this season.

    8. An Irish hunter in disguise?

    Will Fletcher aboard Quintine Van D’Abdijhoeve (Clover)

    Will aboard another eight-year-old mare, Quintine Van D’Abdijhoeve, who was placed in the seven-year-old final last season and is owned by Alison Walton.

    “She looks like an Irish hunter but she’s so light off the ground when she jumps,” says Will. “She’s come on leaps and bounds.”

    9. Keeping the show on the road

    Will Fletcher's groom Eefie Billson leading Israel

    Each brother has their own head groom. Eefie Billson (pictured above leading Israel) works for Will and also competes her own showjumper, Pudding. Gemma Chapman (pictured below with Kandoo) is Olli’s groom and also helps with the riding.

    Gemma Chapman, groom to Olli Fletcher, with Kandoo

    10. A quiet jump at home

    Tina explains that the horses “never jump big at home”: “A horse doing 1.50m classes won’t jump more than 1.40m. We just want to keep them relaxed, happy and enjoying their job.”

    Will Fletcher jumps Iwalinde

    Will jumps his top horse Iwalinde (Isla)

    Olli Fletcher jumps Hello William

    Olli puts the top-class Hello William through his paces

    11. “Percy does whatever he pleases”

    Tina Fletcher and Persimmon

    Tina gives a treat to Persimmon

    Persimmon is the yard favourite. He occupies the first box in Olli’s yard, even though he’s Will’s ride – “because that’s where he wants to be”. The veteran is still winning grands prix as a 19-year-old.

    12. “They help each other out”

    Olli and Will Fletcher riding their horses in the arena

    Olli (left, aboard Hello William), and Will riding Iwalinde

    Dad Graham admits he’s surprised at how well the family business has worked out. While there is plenty of banter, he says: “I can’t remember them ever having an argument about the horses – they help each other out.”

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