“I am about to go into my final year at Exeter Uni and whilst I have really enjoyed my time there, the horses have always been in the back of my mind! I considered working with horses before Uni but put it off because of the fee increases. I do not come from a horsey family but have ridden since I was 7. In the grand scheme of things I am inexperienced and am quite realistic of that. I’ve been lucky enough to help look after and ride a friend’s horse over the last six years, but haven’t had the opportunity to regularly compete or improve huge amounts.
Over the past few years I have done work experience with Mary King and William Fox-Pitt which I loved, and found it fascinating to be able to see the behind the scenes. I also particularly enjoyed going with Mary to Gatcombe and helping her groom.
My dream is to be as successful as you and ride on the British Senior Team. I am definitely going to give eventing a shot as I know I will regret it if I don’t. However I feel as though I would be playing catch up in comparison to a lot of people my age who are also following their dream.
I don’t know whether it would be best to go and work as a working pupil somewhere, and if so is there anywhere you would recommend. I don’t know whether it would be best to do this in a small or larger yard, or with an up and coming rider or one who is already established at the top? Also would it be best to work with an eventer or in a dressage or show-jumping yard to gain experience of these phases? Part of me would also love to experience eventing through working as a travelling groom and experiencing events such as Badminton etc but I know a lot of riders only tend to take their head girl/boy. Any advice would be hugely appreciated!”
Oliver answers: My advice would always be to finish University first, so you have something to fall back on.
With regards to getting experience, you will have to do work experience first. You can’t expect to ride for a very long time, and expect very long hours. It is always ideal to train with someone already at the top as they have proved that whatever they are doing is working for them and, in theory, you are learning from the best. If you want to be an eventer work with an eventer – although to go down the dressage and show jump route is never going to be a disadvantage and will add to your learning.
You cannot expect to step into a role and groom at the prestigious events; people work for years to get in that position and therefore it would not be fair on anyone if you were to surpass them and take their place. Riders want people they know and trust around them at the big competitions and these relationships are built up over time, time for you to learn the right ways to deal with that particular horse as well. Big yards are busier and, because there are more horses, more things are happening at once, hence normally the learning is quick, but it doesn’t suit everyone, so you will only know by trying it.
My advice to you is the same as to many other people who ask the same question: get a normal job and ride as a hobby, or be prepared for very long hours and a lot of hard work for many of years. Then, hopefully with talent and a bit of luck, you will get there.
Good Luck with everything, I hope it works out for you, whatever and wherever you may end up.