One of Britain’s top horse four-in-hand driver Georgina Hunt (pictured) is to quit the sport after almost 30 years competing horse and pony teams.
The 45-year-old pharmacist cited financial reasons as a primary factor, but said there were “a lot of layers” to the decision.
“Sponsorship might have been a way forward, but it is difficult to attract sponsors to driving in Britain as there is not much to offer them,” she said. “We’ve had a bit of a breakdown of the circuit with the loss of some dates.”
Following a concerted two-year campaign for this year’s World Equestrian Games (WEG), at which she finished 24th with her team of black Gelderlanders, she admitted that frustrations over what was achievable for British-based drivers had also played a part.
“I thought I knew what it took to improve by the 5pen necessary to become world class, but there were a lot of barriers, from the quality of horses, time required for training and the competition scene in Britain,” she said. “It was out of my league as an amateur and I got as far as I could, but I couldn’t see myself breaking into the top echelon.”
Georgina started driving a pony team in 1986, and was a seven-time national champion and three-time European champion before switching to horses in 2000. She has been the best-performing British horse fours driver on the national circuit in recent seasons, frequently finishing in the runner-up spot behind world champion, Australian Boyd Exell.
Most of her team will now be sold off, with one of her six horses having already gone to a new home.
“I don’t think I’ll give up entirely. I’ve already been out indoors with a single,” she added. “I might also just be a Pony Club mum for a few years.”
As well as a loss for the British squad, her retirement will also be a loss to the national circuit, which has already witnessed the departure of Boyd Exell this year to a new base in Holland.
Boyd’s move places him in the heart of the continental circuit, where competition is stronger and better supported than in the UK. It’s anticipated that a selection of UK competitors may now base themselves with him for at least part of the season.