Successful professional showjumper Jay Halim speaks out about the reaction to Oliver Townend's comments on what it takes to be successful in the sport of eventing at the highest level
AFTER reading the backlash on social media from Oliver Townend’s comment regarding wealth and eventing at the top level, it made me reflect on my own journey in the equestrian world.
I grew up on a council estate to non-horsey parents. We didn’t have a lorry or a trailer, in fact we used to borrow a trailer that I slept in at shows.
My mother was too scared to tow and my dad was always working, so we relied on getting lifts. Both my parents worked their hardest to provide and I remember my mum taking a second job stacking shelves in the local supermarket for me to have a pony.
I left home at 17 and worked for Graham and Tina Fletcher until I was 21. In my time there, I learnt my trade. I worked hard for every opportunity offered to me and it gave me the work ethic I needed to set up on my own successfully.
I set up my own yard with £1,000 savings and a bridle. In doing so, I quickly learnt that I had to diversify and, during another massive learning curve, I ended up eventing full-time, competing up to what was formerly three-star level, qualifying two horses for Badminton Horse Trials and winning the Burghley young event horse final.
Fast forward a few years and I now showjump full-time and I have ticked many boxes with various wins and career highlights.
The breeding programme I started 12 years ago has produced a five-star horse and others winning nationally and internationally.
Have I had opportunities on the way? Yes I have. But they have been presented to me through hard work and dedication, and I have grasped them with both hands, making the best of every situation.
Find your motivation
GROWING up, I was terribly jealous of my friends having ponies, lovely yards and their own lorries, but you have to move on from that. Even as an adult, I still see people with a nicer lorry than me or a more expensive horse, but that just drives me to be better and to work harder. You have to get to a point where you are comfortable with these things to be able to move forward.
I still don’t consider that I have “made it” and that’s the drive behind me. There are many things that I would still like to achieve – and I will. It is hard work but if you truly want it, it is achievable.
Sadly, you do tend to see a generation of riders turning up at shows to compete in immaculate riding gear, obviously having not lifted a finger, but then you turn the corner and see 66-year-old John Whitaker pushing his wheelbarrow, having no doubt driven his own truck to get there and tacked up his own horses. That’s how he succeeded and that’s why he is such an inspiration.
There’s no denying the fact that you need money in order to compete in this sport, but wherever that comes from – be it sponsors, family money, a job or a business sideline – the one thing that unites us all is the hard work needed to succeed.
Therefore, instead of slating people like Oliver Townend on social media, be inspired. He’s one of the hardest working people I know and someone the younger generation should be encouraged to look up to, rather than seeing his achievements tarnished by ignorance and bullying.
- This exclusive column will also be available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 4 November
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