Having been raised on the tiny Channel Island of Sark, I learnt to ride at a very early age as the island has no cars, and horses are very much part of the way of life there. I actually learnt to ride on a donkey followed by a string of horses and ponies. At 19, and with little in the way of job opportunities on Sark, I applied for a job on the mainland at the Fortune Centre in Hampshire, where adults with learning and physical disabilities are given a sense of freedom and achievement through riding. It was here that I was given my first opportunity to compete on the centre’s skewbald mare, Jolly Dolly, and went on to win the 1985 Young Dressage Rider Championship.
My next job took me to the Taylor household in Bourton on the Hill in Gloucestershire where I was made to ride the naughty young horses and my brief eventing career began. I believe that here I learned the true basis of horsemanship, finding a way based on tact, patience, firmness and kindness when dealing with horses with behavioural problems.
Three and a half years later, Dr Bechtolsheimer approached me to join his yard as a rider – I thought all my birthdays had come at once! During the time I rode and trained with Dr B, I went to the World Championships (1990) with Rubelit von Unkenriff, the European Championships (1991) and the Barcelona Olympics (1992) with Giorgione – it was the chance of a lifetime for me, for which I have a lasting fondness and debt to the Bechtolsheimers.
On leaving Dr B, I went into partnership with Kate Carter at her yard in Stow on the Wold and then Eldersfield in Gloucestershire, until I was able to build my own yard in Newent, Gloucestershire. Regards horses over the last few years, I had great successes on Escapado at National, European and Olympic level and have been lucky enough to own and ride horses such as Dolendo, Movistar, Uthopia and my young horse Valegro. In 2008 I was given the ride on Liebling II owned by Donald McTaggart.
At the 2009 European Championships I finally achieved my career ambition to win a team medal! The team took silver and Leibling excelled himself with consistently high scores. A few weeks later, I won my sixth National Dressage Champion title, again on Leibling, which makes 51 National titles in total (at all levels). What a year!
2010 was incredibly busy including a successful Sunshine Tour with Uthopia, who is being aimed at the 2012 London Olympics. I was sad when Liebling was sold to Canadian rider Cheryl Meisner, who had hoped to qualify him for WEG. This was not to be for her, but I was delighted that she offered the ride back to me so that we could qualify for WEG with Team GB. This we achieved at the Hickstead World Dressage Masters so Liebling and I went to Kentucky. WEG was a great success and our team won the Silver medal!
In March 2011 I competed at Vidauban and won the Grand Prix Freestyle with Fernandez and Charlotte won the other Grand Prix with Valegro! It was an extremely worthwhile show and we have both qualified for the Europeans and the World Class Programme. The highlight of the season was taking team gold at the European Championships, a historic victory for Great Britain, and individually winning two silver medals as well!
Of course, 2012 was the best year ever, fulfilling a life-time ambition of winning Olympic gold with the British team riding Uthopia and, in so doing, making history. I also can't describe the joy of seeing my long term protégé Charlotte win double Olympic gold on Valegro, a horse I co-own.