H&H interview: Yasmin Ingham — ‘I dropped to the floor and said, “How have I managed to get this lucky?”’ *H&H Plus*

  • Winning a senior championship class this autumn was a breakthrough moment for a rider who is still only 23. Pippa Roome talks to rising star event rider Yasmin Ingham about taking ferries to competitions and Paris 2024

    An island, an invitation to coffee and a pony gold medal. What do these things have in common? It’s not a standard quiz question, but the answer is that all have been instrumental in building the career of promising event rider Yasmin Ingham.

    The 23-year-old holds the honour of having won the British championships at all four “under” levels – 16, 18, 21 and 25. Then this autumn she cut it with the grown-ups successfully when she blasted through a quality field to pilot Banzai Du Loir to victory in the eight- and nine-year-old championship at Burnham Market.

    “If I could choose the qualities which combine to make an event horse, he’s the one with them all,” she says of Banzai Du Loir, a Selle Français bought last May from French amateur rider Axel Coutte, through Rachel Wakefield of Uptown Eventing.

    “He’s super athletic, really fast, very scopey, brave – and he’s rideable. Sometimes you have horses who are hot and you have to be careful how much pressure you put on, but the more you ask, the more he gives.

    “He was bought with Paris 2024 in mind; obviously there’s a long way to go, but it’s exciting to have that plan and dream in place.”

    And what did it mean to Yasmin to nail that first big senior win? Her answer quickly turns to the horse’s owners, Sue Davies and her daughter Janette Chinn.

    “They were super, super proud and that’s what I want – I want to give back to them by having good results because they’ve given me lovely horses to ride,” she says. “For them to enjoy themselves is one of my priorities.”

    And with the mention of Sue and Janette, we’re back to the island, the coffee and that pony gold medal. Perhaps we’d better start at the beginning…

    Yasmin grew up on the Isle of Man, where her mother Lesley was a manager at a large equestrian centre, Kennaa.

    “How can I explain the Isle of Man?” ponders Yasmin, pausing for barely a moment before her naturally bubbly personality takes over. “It’s an amazing place to grow up, so tiny, but so friendly. Mum would take me up to the yard in the pram, I’d pet her horse Remy and my first words were ‘on it’. I always wanted to be on the horse. Then Mum got me a little pony on loan, Evil Edna – the naughtiest pony.”

    Living just down the road from Kennaa, Yasmin’s summer holidays were spent at the centre, where Lesley could keep half an eye on her between office or yard work.

    “There was a lot of going out in fields and jumping hedges. And we used to play chase me Charlie – one day Mum walked over to find me galloping to a 1.60m fence on a 14hh pony,” grins Yasmin. “She was like, ‘What am I going to do with this child who can’t stop riding and wanting to gallop at huge fences?’”

    When Yasmin was 13, her trainer Mark Smith suggested she might match well with Craig Mor Tom, who had done a season of pony trials with Sophie Callard.

    “He was a hothead and it took a long time to figure him out, but then we came home with two gold medals,” says Yasmin. “After that, I knew I wanted to do this as a career.”

    Their team and individual golds came at their second pony Europeans, the result of hard work after two run-outs at her first championship.

    She explains: “I spent the whole winter training at home in the snow, sideways rain and freezing temperatures and all I could see in my mind was me standing on that podium with a gold medal around my neck. We spent a whole pony training session with Yogi Breisner doing halts and I said to him, ‘I’m going to do a perfect halt and then I’m going to win a gold medal.’ He laughed and when I did win, he sent me a postcard saying, ‘Perfect halt – and congratulations on your gold medals.’”

    Competing from the Isle of Man was both expensive and hard work. Yasmin and Lesley would take the ferry to the mainland on Friday, then get a 2am boat home on Sunday night. After a four-hour ferry trip, it was up to the yard to drop the pony off, back home for a shower and straight to school.

    “I’m so grateful my parents supported me,” she says. “The logistics were just crazy.”

    That invitation to coffee prompted the next stage of Yasmin’s career, when Lesley wrote to fellow Isle of Man resident Sue Davies just before her daughter’s pony Europeans success.

    Yasmin explains: “Sue and her late husband Eddie owned horses with Mary King, and Mum wrote to Sue, saying we were huge fans of all her horses and it’d be so lovely if we could meet for coffee one day.”

    On their return from Italy, the family found a letter saying Sue would love to discuss Yasmin riding some of her horses. She offered Yasmin the ex-five-star horse Fernhill Urco and a home-bred, Pewit Terceiro, and by April of the following year, the teenager had moved to the Davies’ Pewit Hall, in Cheshire.

    Then Mary King pulled world team gold medallist Imperial Cavalier (Archie) up at Badminton 2014 and Sue decided she’d like him to semi-retire and do juniors with Yasmin.

    Yasmin remembers: “I was standing in the yard and I literally dropped to the floor and said, ‘How have I managed to get this lucky?’ For Sue to ask if I’d like to ride Imperial Cavalier, a horse I’d dreamt of even touching, it was just incredible.

    “Without Sue, Eddie and Janette, I’d nowhere near have had the success I’ve had – it really is down to them. I definitely had to prove myself at the start, show I was committed, willing to learn and put the work in, but I feel I’ve earnt my place here now.”

    Riding experienced horses eased Yasmin over the “big jump” from ponies to horses.

    “It was amazing for my confidence to have horses that were so forward-thinking and knew the movements,” she says. “It’s given me a huge advantage in riding the younger horses now.

    “Archie was amazing, but he could blow up at times, so he taught me a lot about working horses in – and tiring them out. There’s no way you could get on 20 minutes before a test and expect it to all go swimmingly well – you’d be there after your second lunge and third ride of the day…”

    These days, Yasmin is the main rider at Pewit Stud, where there are around 25 horses, including home-bred youngsters. Living on site, working in a team of four, with excellent facilities, she has a superb set-up. She’s also supported by World Class and the Windrush Equestrian Foundation programme, which includes training and mentoring from Pippa Funnell.

    Banzai Du Loir is just one of her four top-level horses, with Sandman 7 – a 2015 European team silver medallist with Pippa Funnell – and Rehy DJ also belonging to Sue and Janette.

    Rehy DJ (Piglet) was the first horse they bought for her to ride, when he was a six-year-old, and is another found through Rachel Wakefield, this time in Ireland.

    “He’s been such a solid, solid horse for me – every time we’ve stepped up a level he’s said, ‘OK, no problem,’ and if there’s a mistake it’s my fault not his,” says Yasmin.

    Still only 10, Piglet was Yasmin’s under-21 national champion, took her to fourth at the young rider Europeans in 2018 and has had two top-10 placings at four-star this year. His first – and Yasmin’s second – run at five-star at Pau this autumn didn’t quite go to plan with two run-outs, but the horse will be back preparing for next season once he recovers from the bruised heel that ruled him out of trotting up on the final day in France.

    “It’s easy to get uptight, annoyed and disappointed but if it was easy, everyone would be doing it,” Yasmin reflects. “You’ve got to take the positives when it doesn’t go right and I’ll spend all winter trying to be better.”

    Yasmin’s first five-star ride was at Pau 2018 when she finished 16th on her own and her parents Lesley and Stephen’s Night Line. He is “opinionated” on the flat, but Yasmin has felt safe on him across country since being told to “pop” him over some advanced fences when she bought him as a seven-year-old.

    Yasmin’s ultimate aim is an Olympic gold and a five-star win – “or several”.

    “A lot of it is to do with luck, being in the right place at the right time. Maybe if we hadn’t stumbled across Craig Mor Tom, I might not have met Sue, I might not be here now,” she says. “I do believe in fate, that I was supposed to be on this path in life. I’m so grateful everything has fallen the way it has.”

    Yasmin names Pippa Funnell and Laura Collett – who have both come through adversity to win again – as her idols.

    “That’s what makes a successful sportsperson – you have to go through the rough times so you can learn from them and come out better,” she concludes.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 26 November 2020

    You may also be interested in:

    Basics, rider position and attention to detail: vital lessons from Pippa Funnell

    Find out what six riders learnt by spending five days with last year’s Burghley winner Pippa Funnell — there’s bound