Top British rider aims for Olympics after move to US

Show jumper William Whitaker has started his new job as a rider for Rushy Marsh Farm and will now be based in Germany and the US.

The 29-year-old has spent the past two-and-a-half years in Belgium working with Ludwig and Yasmine Criel but started his new role with Monica and Frank McCourt last week.

“I took a holiday with my family the first week of January and then came out here [to Germany] and I’m just getting to know the horses at the moment,” said William.

“We will then fly out to Florida next week. I’ve never done the Wellington circuit before, so I am looking forward to going out there to experience it.”

William’s new rides will include 10-year-old RMF Cadeau De Muze and 14-year-old RMF Echo, previously ridden by Ireland’s Denis Lynch.

“We have three horses here at the moment and a couple more in America — the plan is to use Wellington as a bit of a training ground and then see how these horses get into a programme,” he added.

William’s time at the Criels’ included championship appearances with their 14-year-old stallion Utamaro De Ecaussines. It was a partnership that had a fairytale ending when they landed the biggest win of William’s career in the Longines FEI World Cup at the London International Horse Show, Olympia last month.

“I was delighted with the way Uti jumped there — all my horses jumped well that week and to come away with that result was extra special,” William said.

The Criels’ horses have now been taken over by Belgian rider Niels Bruynseels.

“Uti was difficult to say goodbye to, he’s been a fantastic horse for me for the past two-and-a-half years and it wasn’t just him — it all the horses I had there,” William added. “It’s never easy when you change place, both for me and my groom Benoit, but you move on.”

William said the move to Rushy Marsh had not been something “he was looking for” but that the “opportunity came up”.

“I really enjoyed my time with Ludwig and Yasmine, they really took care of me, and this move is something I gave it a lot of thought to. I just felt it was a good opportunity to move forward over the next couple of years,” he explained.

William told H&H that representing Britain on championship teams will remain one of his “big goals” while working for his American employers.

“My aim to compete in the Olympics stays the same, and it’s something I will be talking about with the owners of the horses and the trainer here,” he said.

William’s opportunities this season already include a place on the Miami Celtics team in the Global Champions League, which was co-founded by his new employer.

“It means it will open the door to jump at Global Champions Tour shows as well,” he said.

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William’s arrangement with Rushy Marsh Farm is not exclusive and he will be available to ride horses for other owners. His youngest brother James will be continue to manage his rides Lammy Beach and William’s 2016 Hickstead Derby winner Glenavadra Brilliant from the family’s Harrogate base.

William’s wife Elisabeth and children Isabella and Oliver will also remain in the UK and he plans to visit during school holidays. He confirmed that they would be travelling out to Florida at half term when a trip to Disney World would be likely.

“The great thing about having kids is that it’s a good excuse!” he said

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