British Olympic gold medallist signs up as official rider at stud

  • World number one eventer Oliver Townend has been signed as Caunton Stud’s official rider in a collaboration it is hoped will put equestrian sport on the public radar with the likes of football and Formula One.

    The Nottinghamshire-based stud, home to young competition horses and stallions including Comfort and Jacondrik, is the brainchild of Victoria Wright and her father, Sir John Peace.

    Victoria said they have “huge ambitions” for Caunton and the “dream is to create something world-class that has never been done before”.

    “Top riders work incredibly hard but when you compare equestrian to other sports and look at the sportspeople at the top of the likes of football, Formula One, or even snooker – they are in the public profile, they’re seen as sportspeople, and people recognise what it is they do,” she told H&H.

    “In equestrian sport, people at the top don’t have a glamorous lifestyle, they’re out there with their horses, slogging away trying to make their yard work and make money. I think we need to ask how we take equestrian sport to a wider audience, so not just for horse people but for the general public, it becomes the normal thing they watch, like football or motorsport. The public gets behind horseracing and it’s therefore a huge industry, and I think for the sustainability of sport horses you’ve got to almost do a similar thing.”

    Victoria said Caunton has a “vision” for the future of the sport, and the way they feel it needs to progress.

    “The way the sport has run for a long time is that riders have yards, they might struggle to get owners, and they’re trying to pay for the horses, but for what reward? The prize money within the sport is not great and there’s nothing for the new generation of riders to aspire to because they see our top riders struggling and why would they want to get into it for more than a hobby?” she said.

    “You’ve also got to look at why owners are few and far between now; you’ll see them getting involved in other sports where they can have great returns, fun and stuff like that, so for us this is about daring to do something different. Godolphin signed Will Buick, Manchester United signed Cristiano Ronaldo, Mercedes signed Lewis Hamilton – it should be no different for studs or for owners to create their own teams”.

    Victoria said “now is the time” to take the sport forward following Team GB’s eventing gold medal in Tokyo last summer.

    “People recognised that and it’s now about keeping equestrian sport on the map,” she said, adding that Caunton has some “exciting plans” yet to be revealed for 2023.

    “For us Oliver was such an obvious choice to support because he’s so forward-thinking in the way the sport needs to change. His drive and his focus; he is just so passionate about the sport and he cares about the future of it. He works so hard, and for how hard he’s worked to get to where he has done, really there should be more reward in it.”

    Oliver said accepting the contract with Caunton is “hugely exciting”.

    “I’m delighted to be working with Victoria and Sir John; we have a mutual desire to promote and improve British breeding and the sport of eventing,” he said.

    The Oliver Townend/Caunton collaboration can be seen in action on 12 February 2022 at the British Breeding stallion event at Arena UK, Lincs, and at the Caunton open day on 27 February, which will feature all the Caunton Stud stallions. For more information, visit www.cauntonmanorstud.com.

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