From the night shift to the lorry: the amateur riders making it work at Hickstead

  • It’s not just the international showjumping at the Royal International Horse Show; there are thousands of riders competing in the back rings, many of whom are amateurs who move heaven and earth to jump at this prestigious venue.

    Among them this year was Katy Ewing, who brought her own 11-year-old mare Auburn Jilly Copper from Kent on Tuesday (26 July) and Thursday, working night shifts in between her classes.

    “I managed to get late entries a couple of weeks ago but it was too late to put a holiday request in,” said Katy, who works at Wetherspoons. “So I had to figure it out somehow!”

    Katy was working until about 1am on Tuesday morning, then jumping in the first class, which started at 8am.

    “She was loaded and on her way by 5.45am,” said Katy, who then worked another night shift until 1am on Thursday.

    Also jumping was Katy’s friend, and former Horse & Hound Award Pikeur amateur rider of the year finalist Philippa Wratten, a police officer who is known on the circuit for finishing night shifts and loading straight up for shows.

    “She came to help me on Thursday, and she’d been on a late shift Wednesday night!” Katy said. “I think the first night I got about two and a half hours’ sleep, then maybe three and a half the second one. But you have to find a way somehow.”

    Katy added that so much of her time and effort is spent on her horses, and competing is what she wants to do.

    “I enjoy going to shows, so you have to find the time to do it, and make it work,” she said. “Hickstead is always one to tick off your bucket list; we did it once before and she’s moved on since, and I wanted to see how much. She jumped really well.

    “It’s the social side too; I know a lot of friends through horses and although I was on my own on Tuesday, I wasn’t because friends were competing too.

    “It’s all about fitting it in and making it work. We aren’t the ones being paid for this, we do it just for the enjoyment; whether people are fitting work round it or taking their leave. We all do it because we love it.”

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