Life lessons: Show producer Clare Fitch *H&H Plus*

  • The show producer on forgetting set shows at crucial times, her techy talents and the winning advice she was given as a child...

    When I was at school, I was really good at computer programming. I found it interesting and I finished with an A grade at A level. But back then, the internet wasn’t even around; I wish I’d known how much of a “thing” computers were going to be and how important technology would become. When I left school, I went to work for American Express before I got into horses, but in hindsight I should have kept up with the programming.

    When I was younger, I looked up to the late showjumper Caroline Bradley. As I’m from a non-horsey family, I admired the way she had worked her way up the ranks. She had nothing handed to her and she was a talented horsewoman.

    While my parents were not into horses, my mum would come to Pony Club shows with me. She’s always told me to think you’re the best. “Even if you’re not the best, blag it,” she’d say. When I was about to go in the ring at local shows, she would tell me to act like I was the winner. It was the best thing she ever said to me.

    Ready for the ring

    While I always have faith in myself, I’ll never forget the time I did the wrong show after being pulled top in a Horse of the Year Show qualifier. I was riding the Highland stallion Strathleven Drumochter at Midland Counties two years ago. I didn’t realise what I’d done until I came back into line and fellow producer Katy Marriott-Payne told me I had missed a circle out of my show.

    I was mortified and it’s made me so neurotic about set shows. Ever since then I’ve been berserk about getting it right and I almost have a breakdown when I’m sat in the line-up at the HOYS final before my show.

    When my horses aren’t showing, they will usually be hacking out or in the field. I swear by roadwork. It gets them ready for the ring and keeps their work varied. We live by three big farms, so they see a lot of heavy traffic. When we’re at the big county shows — such as Royal Norfolk, where the ring is surrounded by tractors — they don’t spook as much.

    Arabs are quick thinkers and are always one step ahead of the game. They’re almost waiting for something to jump out and they can turn on a sixpence, so hacking helps desensitise them.

    My horses all go out everyday and every one, bar the stallions, has a “friend”. If they’re happy, they work well for you.

    I also have regular lessons with dressage trainer David Pincus. In 2012, I was having trouble with a stallion that refused to go forward and my friend recommended I go to David. I’ve been hooked on dressage ever since and even though I don’t want my show horses to go like dressage animals – I’m not a dressage diva by any means — I’m able to take the training and make it work with what’s needed for the ring. It really works for me.

    Loss of a star

    If I could bring any horse back now, it would be the stallion Judals Artisan, who sadly broke his leg and had to be put to sleep after an accident in the field.

    He was only a four-year-old. He was out of our HOYS-winning mare Judals Berugia and, two weeks before he passed, he won the novice ridden stallions at the national championships. It was such a tragedy; he was on holiday after his big win and he rolled in the field hitting his leg on a fence post in the process. He was such a lovely horse with the most trainable temperament.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 23 April 2020

    About Clare

    Clare is a leading producer of all types of show animals. Known for her victorious Arabs, she has won with them at the Royal International and has also won at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) six times. She has won HOYS on a Highland and is a regular face at Olympia. She is based with her partner and Arab producer Steve McCormick in Hereford.