World Equestrian Games silver-medallist Zara Phillips is fortunate to be based in rolling Gloucestershire hills at Gatcombe Park — having hillwork on your doorstep is a gift most eventers would swap in a flash for any kind of artificial training device.
Zara currently has nine horses to ride on her yard. “I try not to have too many at once so that I can do a good enough job on every one, rather than having too many and not riding them,” she says.
H&H caught up with Zara to find out how much emphasis she puts on hacking, how hunting helps her younger horses and why she splashed out on an equine spa.
Zara Phillips on…
“We don’t have a walker so I’ve put a massive emphasis on hacking,” Zara tells H&H. “There are a couple of busy roads right outside where we are, but we’ve got great hacking and good lanes around us — if you can’t get them fit around us then you’re doing something wrong!”
“I use hunting as a way of educating younger horses — getting them out, getting them jumping and getting them galloping,” she says.
“You have to be able to jump from wherever you are — you can’t say: ‘Hang on a minute I’m just going to circle’.
“Whether you’re fearless or not out hunting depends what you’re sitting on!
“You can have a great day if something really takes to it. But sometimes trying to stay out of the way and all the standing around means it’s not fun for anyone — some horses just don’t have the brain for it.”
“Walkers are probably a good idea when you have a horse that’s a bit fresh coming back from injury. But we haven’t got to that point and I’ve probably spent the money I could have done on a walker on a spa for rehab,” Zara says.
“I’ve used a spa for the last couple of years and then saved up for my own, which I got this year — it’s really helpful after galloping, or for a horse that has a bit of heat, a nick or if they have bad feet.
“I used a spa with High Kingdom before the London Olympics when he fell over a step and scraped his stifles and his knees — if he hadn’t been able to go in one, it would have been [touch and go].”
“I have finally persuaded my father [Captain Mark Phillips] to put in a gallop,” Zara says. “A gallop at home is so much easier [than travelling to one] because you’re not spending time driving and you can go and use it whenever you want to get the horses fit.”
“Mine go out permanently from the end of October until the end of November,” says Zara.
“When they get turned away for their holiday they still have a rug on but I take their shoes off and they’re out 24 hours a day.
“When I bring them back in I’ll do roadwork through December — I think it’s really important to still do six weeks of road work.”
Zara Phillips is the in-game mentor and guide for the internationally successful equine game Howrse which is available as a free-to-play browser game for PC, Mac, iOS and Android mobile devices. Find out more at www.howrse.co.uk