Life lessons: in-hand show horse producer Steve Pitt *H&H Plus*

  • Steve Pitt is a professional show producer and breeder who heads up the Mill House Stud. Horses under his instruction have landed the supreme accolade at Horse of the Year Show and Steve has led many Cuddy in-hand winners. He is renowned for finding ridden stars

    I consider my equestrian background to be a well-rounded one. As a young boy I spent most of my time with my father buying and selling horses. He’d often use me as a test pilot for the breakers and we also had a lot of driving horses in. We did a lot of trotting alongside; trotters can move up to 40mph and they taught me how to ride in time with the movement.

    I was taught to ride by the late dealer Bob Woolley, and both Bob and my father drilled into me the importance of conformation and soundness in a horse.

    As I was small and strong, my first dream was to be a jockey. I have always admired the now retired National Hunt jockey AP McCoy and Flat racer Frankie Dettori. However, my father didn’t push me to pursue my racing career as he was too busy chucking me on to various ponies.

    My interest in showing developed due to my love of correct conformation and simply beautiful horses. My aim in life is to breed, or buy, the perfect animal. It’s an addiction for me. I’ve been doing it for more than 25 years and can proudly say that I’ve been involved in finding some of the show ring’s most legendary stars, including Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) supreme The Philanderer (Jayne Ross).

    Finding the right horse for someone is a passion. I always maintain that if you’ve not decided to buy something within the first five minutes of laying eyes on it then it’s not for you and you should walk away. I will never mess anyone around. Breeding is a lifelong fascination, too. I love my mares and my foals. I’m always working towards breeding that ideal model of a horse.

    I’ve had so many special horses in my life that I’ve watched go on and flourish. My first broodmare, Silken Knot, was an extremely important horse. She has bred many beautiful foals including some stunning hacks, my favourite type. She was put down a few years ago and I knew the time was coming but it was incredibly hard to see her go. I even told my partner, Vicky, that she was probably the best woman I’ve ever come in contact with.

    We have a beautiful three-year-old granddaughter of hers to bring out in the future. She’s the spitting image of her granny.

    Enough in the tank

    The management tip I live by is never to leave a horse empty on competition day. I like to have enough in the tank for when they enter the ring and I don’t like to overdo work, especially with young horses. They need to have enough petrol to perform.

    With both feeding and training I believe in little and often. Instead of two big feeds per day I tend to feed five smaller ones. It’s the same with work; if you’re working a young horse it’s better to do 10 minutes and call it a day. There’s no need to hammer them as they can only deal with so much information. They’re like children.

    Another saying I live by is that you must always remember those people you met on the way up as you may need them on the way down. In other words, always remember and make an effort with your old mates as there will be a time you may need them.

    Think before you do

    I always treat each horse as an individual as not one is ever the same as another. We’ve had horses come off a boat from Ireland wild as hell but I’ll always find a way to win them around in the end.

    Proper horsemanship comes into play here. When we have young jockeys come to the yard I always teach them the importance of correct groundwork and most importantly, thinking before you do anything. The number of people I see not thinking, such as tying horses up on a long rope on to the lorry, is alarming. I saw someone at a show caught out when their horse bolted and took half of the trailer with it.

    No matter how old and experienced your animal is, think before you do.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 19 November 2020

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