The controversies of the World Equestrian Games were balanced with the news that Britain’s Ros Canter finished as individual as well as a team gold medallist.
Her story is an inspiration to every young rider – and a few not so young ones, too. Ros started, like so many, as a member of the Pony Club, but didn’t begin eventing at affiliated level until she had her first horse.
Silver Curtis, who came from a local stud, was talented but not easy. Some would have given up on a horse who decided at first that he would be in charge, but Ros persevered. Their partnership blossomed, and he became her first horse to get to advanced level.
Everyone needs a bit of luck, and Ros made her own by taking what was meant to be a temporary summer job with former leading event rider, now top trainer, Judy Bradwell. She stayed for four years, riding and winning on four to six-year-olds, before striking out on her own in 2011.
By then, she had become expert in everything from spotting potential to establishing a solid foundation in a horse’s training; and, of course, dealing with downs as well as ups, as progress rarely follows a consistently uphill line. Such experience is priceless, and worth far more than being handed a horse that is ready to go out and win.
Only a handful of those who dream of hitting the big time in equestrian sport actually make it. It isn’t enough to be talented, because you have to pay the bills. We all know that at times, owning a horse makes you feel that you might as well just set fire to £50 notes, but no one can survive on prize money.
Between them, the top ten at this year’s Badminton Horse Trials netted more than £360,000, with £100,000 going to the winner. At the lower levels – and at top level in some other disciplines – you’ll be lucky to get back the cost of your entry fee, let alone your fuel costs.
That’s a fact of life, not a complaint, as running any competition costs more than most competitors realise. But it does explain why riders need to work so hard, in so many ways, to succeed. It’s why they teach, train and sell some of their horses, including those they’d rather keep.
Some young riders ask for sponsorship when, to be honest, they have little to offer but dreams and self-belief. But unless you have a solid CV, as well as other attributes, you’re unlikely to attract support.
So, if you’re a star desperate for the chance to shine, don’t envy Ros Canter. Copy her example.
Work with and/or for people who can help you stay on the right track. Ride as many different horses as you can, because each one will teach you something. If you have a talented but tricky horse, stick with it and get help. You’ll learn a lot.
Good luck – but remember that the best riders make their own luck!