All in a day’s work: Horseboarder Daniel Fowler-Prime *H&H Plus*

  • Daniel Fowler-Prime on teamwork, wowing crowds and reuniting families, as told to Kate Johnson

    In simple terms, horseboarding is a horse, a rider and an off-road skateboarder racing around a twisting, turning course in the fastest time possible. It’s highly skilled. People call it extreme but I think hunting and eventing are extreme — that’s real danger.

    My background is in shows, trick riding, jousting, and working with horses in film and television; I worked on Game of Thrones, getting the horses ready for dragon battles. I was a keen skater, surfer and snowboarder, too. It was only a matter of time before I put the two together, founding Horseboarding UK. We held our first competition in 2008 and based on that we came up with 13 rules to manage the sport. Now we have two books of rules.

    People think it’s a crazy guy hanging on the back of some poor horse (via a rope which is attached to the saddle with a special harness), but the horse, rider and boarder work together.

    Boarders have to be able to get on with the horse, just as riders do. One team substituted a horse, but the new one didn’t like the boarder. They pretended they were giving the handle to one boarder then handed it to the other, but the horse picked up on it. Being on the same wavelength is what holds them all together.

    My horse Rohan was like a riding school pony when I was showing people how to do it, but if I put my pads, helmet and glasses on, he knew we meant business and then he was a raging inferno.

    We run our competitions at shows as a main ring attraction. We have the drag strip — a 100m dash — and arena boarding, which involves weaving through a course of cones six metres apart, against the clock.

    The elite class tends to be dominated by ex-racehorses, showjumpers and polo ponies. It can depend on the weather as our gypsy cob does well in the wet. I’ve always thought a horse’s attitude is the most important thing; our 14.2hh skewbald is wickedly fast.

    I mainly compete as a boarder. You’re in the pit getting ready for your slot, the horse is on his toes, the rider walks past you and gives you the handle, you go to the start and the horse takes off.

    It’s a massive amount of acceleration, similar to coming out of the gates at the races. They’re flat out in three or four strides. On the board, you can’t hear anything but the wind. You’re focusing on the horse’s line, trying to position yourself in the lightest position for the horse; you want to be behind it, not swinging on its outside.

    We took four teams to the Odense Horse Show in Denmark. Rehearsals didn’t go to plan; one of the lights fell into the arena, the horse spooked, the rider fell off and the boarder hit a post, which launched into the second row of what would have been the audience. But the competition went unbelievably well.

    When the crowd saw our first horse and boarder, they went wild. We hadn’t even done anything. When Levi, our feathery gypsy cob came out at the FEI World Cup and took off, 3,500 people couldn’t make any more noise, so they all started whistling. He’s so popular, another cob owner from Sweden came to visit him.

    I’m surprised it’s so family-orientated. A mother, who was a rider, got her two sons in their mid-20s involved and they compete together. The father said, “How many parents our age would be able to spend time with their kids? You’ve brought us back together.”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 14 May 2020