Young British showjumping talent Harry Charles made all the headlines in December after claiming victory in both the World Cup qualifier and the grand prix at the London International Horse Show at London ExCeL.
But one of the unexpected benefits of having his successes broadcast on prime-time terrestrial television is being recognised in some unexpected places, as he reveals when talking to H&H showjumping editor Jennifer Donald on this week’s episode of The Horse & Hound Podcast.
“It was fantastic for the sport,” says Harry. “A lot of other sports had been cancelled that weekend if that helped anything. But a lot of my friends from school came up to watch, which was even more special because they’d never really seen me ride in real life.
“A lot of them watched on TV with their parents and I went to the barber’s to get a haircut just before new year’s eve and the barber said ‘I saw you on TV last week’ – they’re the last people I’d think would be watching the jumping. But they said it was really cool and they really enjoyed it. A lot of people seemed to have tuned in to watch the show, so it was great exposure for the sport.”
Harry also discusses the importance of taking some time out from the sport and his working day.
“It’s a mentally demanding sport, maybe that’s something that’s overlooked a bit – we’re not machines either, we can’t keep going every single day, so it’s good to take a break and refresh your mind and come to the yard with some fresh ideas now and then,” he says.
“You can get so caught up in it all.”
Harry has been riding for as long as he can remember and his first pony was the aptly named Cheeky. Some of his earliest memories are of competing at Hickstead in the lead-rein cross-pole jumping, led by his father, championship medallist Peter Charles.
“I’d be bobbing about a bit and falling off the back!” he says.
Reflecting on a tremendous 12 months in which Harry also made his debut at the Tokyo Olympics with the great Romeo 88, he says: “Without Ann Thompson [Romeo’s owner] I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you about all this success. She really did kickstart my career when I think about it, giving me the opportunity to ride Romeo and she secured another amazing horse for me as well. Ann’s been a huge part of our team, and a huge part of my career.”
Hear more from Harry Charles as he talks about team-work, why Borsato is so difficult to ride at home and life on the global circuit on episode 87 of The Horse & Hound Podcast – listen here or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.
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Harry Charles riding Romeo 88 at the Tokyo Olympics
Credit: Peter Nixon
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