Harry is one of Britain’s leading event riders and has left no one in doubt that he is able to compete at top level. He has completed more CCI**** events than any rider has ever done by the age of 25, and is widely respected in the equestrian world for his quiet and sympathetic style of riding.
I have always loved horses and wanted to event since I was a small boy. My father retired from competing when I was very young [Harry’s father, Richard, won three Olympic gold medals], but there were always working pupils of all nationalities based with us when we were growing up. They were almost like brothers and sisters at the time and some went on to reach the top, so it was obviously very exciting following them and not surprising that I wanted event when I was older.
I was mad keen on riding as soon as I could walk, we all hunted and were in the pony club, but we never had smart ponies and very definitely rode for fun, something that I think stood me in good stead – this uncompetitive upbringing with horses allowed us to develop into natural riders. At eighteen I rode a neighbour’s horse in the pony club championships and won. By this time I was certain I wanted to event and being selected for the Junior European Championships in Germany gave me a taste of competing abroad. My parents were very supportive but made it clear they were not going to own horses for me so I took every opportunity I could to pick up rides.
I worked as stable jockey for William Fox-Pitt throughout my time at Bristol University, which definitely had a lasting effect on me. The way he produces his horses – quietly giving them time, focusing on the long term and keeping ‘the bigger picture’ in mind – has shaped they way I produce my horses.
Midnight Dazzler was my first top horse at senior level and really put me on the map. He had been with several top riders but was a very tricky horse. He was highly strung and regularly blew up in the dressage, and was an erratic jumper who was difficult to ride at speed, having had several bad falls in the past. Since he wasn’t going to be a top horse, his owners wanted him to come to me, as a younger rider, in order to compete at a lower level for the rest of that season, after which we all thought he would retire.
I found him very difficult to ride and we also had a couple of bad falls together, but we then seemed to click. Far from retiring, Midnight Dazzler went on to become one of the most consistent 4* horses in the world for the next 5 seasons. He completed Badminton five times and Burghley four times, never having a jumping fault cross country. He finished in the top 10 at both events before retiring from top level eventing at the grand old age of 20, he is now being ridden by the daughter of his long term owners. It was a privilege to ride a horse like him and although he was far from easy he taught me a huge amount, I’ll never forget him.
I was lucky enough to complete another three CCI****s on Birthday Night. Between him and Midnight Dazzler we completed Badminton and Burghley 10 times back to back.
I’m also lucky enough to have been part of the World Class squad for the past four years, benefiting from the program’s support and management.
We now have an exciting string of horses spread throughout the levels that we’ve produced from youngsters. Wild Lone came to us as a 4 year old and completed Badminton this year (2011). Tinkas Time arrived as a five year old and completed Blenheim last autumn and was 4th at Tattersalls this year. It’s very rewarding to have had them from the start and I think a lot of both horses.
We have a great team of owners and sponsors and we’re hugely grateful for their ongoing support.