‘One year we did pony fancy dress with British beef as our theme’: five minutes with Alice Oppenheimer

  • The dressage rider on competitive fancy dress and why she’d love to have dinner with Sir Winston Churchill.

    All about Alice:

    Alice Oppenheimer is an international grand prix rider with a number of national and international titles to her name, and has ridden for Britain on Nations Cup teams. She is based in Hampshire, at her family’s Headmore Stud.It has to be Headmore Bella Ruby (pictured, left). She’s only nine but is already showing all the ability to be a good grand prix horse. The first day I rode her at home after she had been backed, I trotted two steps and said, “Oh my God, this horse is amazing.” My mum thought she looked a bit ordinary, but I could just feel her endless scope and suppleness. As Bella has got stronger she has shown more and more impressive movement, and now Mum tries to say she always knew she’d be good really!

    Describe your first pony…

    My sister Kate and I shared two Shetlands, Jimmy and Bertie. Jimmy was naughty, but Bertie was a gem. We used to do a lot of fancy dress – my mum was very competitive and spent ages making the outfits. We always had a theme – one year we did “British beef”. Bertie was dressed as a cow, complete with udders, and I was a butcher and Kate was a farmer.

    What are your superstitions?

    I’m not crazy superstitious – I don’t have to wear the same socks for competitions for example – but I do have to put on everything in the same order. It’s more to do with routine than superstition, really. I do salute the odd magpie though.

    What do you eat for breakfast?

    Normally I have poached eggs on toast – my mum’s chickens lay a good supply of eggs. We have an egg poacher, which makes it easier to do them perfectly.

    What’s your favourite show?

    The best one I’ve ever been to has to be the CHI in Doha. I was lucky enough to compete there in early March in 2016 and we had so much fun. We were treated so well, and it was the same with the horses – they had carrots delivered to their stables every day. And it’s lovely to get a bit of sunshine at the end of the winter.

    If you weren’t a rider, what would you be?

    I’m actually a bit of a nerd, and have A-grade A levels in maths, biology, and chemistry, so I would have studied chemistry at university and done something with that. I only did the A levels as a back-up as I knew that I wanted to do horses, but apparently my old college still uses my coursework as an example to this day!

    What’s been your most embarrassing moment?

    Quite a long time ago I was doing a novice test at the regionals on Headmore Delegate, who was rising five at the time. I had already fallen off in the warm-up, and he started being naughty in the test, too, so I decided to retire. But then for some reason I carried on riding the test. The judge stopped me and said, “I thought you’d retired,” and I said, “So did I!”

    Which famous person would you invite to dinner?

    I would invite Isabell Werth, and also Michael McIntyre, as he’d make the evening a right laugh. I don’t know that the two of them would get on though – I’m not sure if they share the same sense of humour. I’d also like to have Sir Winston Churchill, as I’d love to get an insight into his mindset.

    What kind of sleeper are you?

    I need a lot of sleep – seven or eight hours ideally – and if I don’t get enough I can be properly ratty. I wish it was still acceptable to go to bed at 7pm like a child!

    ● As told to Polly Bryan

    Ref: 7 January 2021

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