William Whitaker on the #HorseHour Podcast

William Whitaker on the #HorseHour Podcast


hey welcome to the horsehour podcast I’m Amy Stevenson my guest today is the lovely William Whitaker, he’s an international show jumper member of Team Great Britain but you’ll know the Whitaker name because his uncles have been show jumping for years, they are British show jumping heritage. There’s so much to William, he talked very openly about his family growing up, his first ever pony that he rode and competed and and what the future holds for him. You’ll be able to catch William at Bolesworth International from the 14th to the 18th of June but here is William sharing his story of his equestrian career. This is horse hour welcome to the horse hour podcast I am really really excited because today we have a guest who I watched jump at the Royal Windsor horse show he’s super successful, it is William Whitaker, how are you? I’m very good thanks how are you? I’m good I’m really good thank you, you are four years younger than me Will and you’re doing incredibly well, when I look back at your your history I mean we’ve kind of grown up together I’d like to say in the same lives but you know totally different because I’m rubbish at riding, but like take this for example when you were 10 you jumped your first British show jumping course didn’t you and you won! yeah yeah I did, yeah I remember it well actually it was on a pony I had that we just bought very local actually it was bought for me by by my mum, my mum’s dad my grandpa and to be honest to say that you know my name Whitaker is very, very associated with show jumping we didn’t really know we didn’t really know what we’re doing to be honest we just kind of we just kind of went to the show and just tried to jump the jumps on on this little pony that we bought and, and yeah it worked how well yeah my luck than good judgment really that’s really interesting because being a part of your family, John Whittaker, Michael Whittaker who are your uncle’s, but your dad he’s not a rider is he? no he’s not no he rode until he was like 21 22 years old but then he kind of never, when I’ve asked him before he said he never really gave up he just kind of just got busy with other things really, he wasn’t really earning any money at showjumping so then he started a milk round got busy with that and then he bought another milk round and you know then in the end he just didn’t have enough time to ride he was busy with other things so he did ride when he was younger but no he hasn’t anymore. It was my mom that found the pony and then my grandpa he bought it for me, yeah my mum’s dad. Johnny he was was called it was a, it was really good it actually turned out to be really good it won at the horse of the year show in the 138’s and stuff like that so yeah so that was kind of lucky really that we found a pony that we didn’t pay much money for from just down the road and it turned out to be really good one, so yeah we were lucky in that sense. Did you train him when you were that young? yeah I’m just trying to think how old he was when we bought him, he did obviously did a few shows with the previous owners just unaffiliated and stuff like that and it was just through a friend of my mom’s that we kind of got in contact yeah and then no one knew how obviously how good he was going to turn out to be yeah we saw just developed together really there was no real, there was nothing technical about it we just sort of went to the show, yeah it’s just kind of happened. Like us normal people go to shows we don’t have a clue what we’re doing I remember my mom telling me she had a, she tells me, she doesn’t ride now she’s too afraid she went hunting once it scared the life out of her, the horse took off and that was it, she was 13 and went “no more for me” so when we have family you know family meals and stuff because my grandparents always saying we didn’t know we just used to rock up at shows we’d have one horse bolting, copper he was called, Copper would bolt one way, Saxon would bolt the other way and they never dress they never had the right outfits and, but it was a good day out . Yeah definitely definitely I know how they feel. So how did you get from that then did you you always know that showjumping was what you wanted to do? yeah I’ve always been into Showjumping, like every year I used to go from when I was very young to Olympia we used to go as a family to Olympia on sort of a you know like a mini Christmas holiday to watch my uncle’s ride and I just loved going there I remember coming home and and getting, because what we always had a pony at home even one from from when I was a very young, Peter Pan that one was called. It didn’t really jump but I remember I used to go home and from Olympia and tack that pony up and start to ride like them around the field at home and so that was sort of that was sort of kind of when I decided that you know we would like to buy another pony and start to do some shows and stuff like that yeah yeah and I think I think like we said before the fact that the other pony the 13’2 Mystic Starlight Express it was called, the fact that that turned out to be a good pony and won from, won classes from the beginning kind of give me that taste for for winning a class and then once I won one class I wanted to win another class and wanted to ride better yeah and it just kind of all snowballs from there really so did you don’t drag your uncle’s home and say come on give me a hand like can you give me some lessons?! haha yeah the more the more I did yeah because like when I was at school I went on work experience I did my work experience I went one week to John’s in one week to Michael’s and to make it fair yeah it was quite it was quite funny actually it was like a bit of a standing joke in the family that if ever I took one of my ponies to John our Michaels for a bit of training I always fell off, always in the end in the end every time dad mentioned we will go up to, he used to say, we’lll go up to John’s and you can give you a jump and i used to think oh no not again. Not without a back protector yeah but to be honest, all the way through, Steven as well Allen’s dad he he helped me quite a lot in the beginning you know obviously because John and Michael were always basically never at home they were always away at shows yes so Steven as well helped me quite a bit in the beginning so you have to be honest I’ve been lucky to have some good trainers around me. You’ve got good support but I should imagine you know, I’ve been lucky enough to meet them a couple of times and they’re very down to earth and I can imagine them saying you’ve got to find your own way William as well you know we can’t do it for you yeah that’s kind of that’s kind of the way, the way that the teach as well. They sort of the offer odd instead of telling you how to do something they offer their advice and leave you to find your own path really that was like because I was based, I wrote for Michael for five years so you know obviously worked very closely with him and that was always the way that he kind of did it he offered me advice told me what he thought and his experiences in certain situations and then kind of yeah sent me on my way with three horses to a show and. And said good luck. yeah yeah I had to get on with it yeah so what was it like saying 10 you won the horse of the year show, you went to watch Olympia and then exactly 10 years later you won the Puissance! It was a little bit crazy really especially the Puissance on the first the first year I won it, it was a bit surreal because it was just kind of a bit you know we hadn’t trained we to be honest we never went to the show with a plan to jump the Puissance with that horse it was just a bit of a spontaneous idea from Michael because that’s. Oh really! Yeah because thats when I was riding for Michael at the time the horse Leonardo he was called he was always a very scopey bold horse yeah we felt that he needed a bit more experience going in that ring at Olympia so Michael said try him in the Puissance, he should jump it, he’s bold, he can jump so give give it a go and he ended up winning It’s incredible, the Puissance always looks so super scary and you can hardly imagine it’s so high you can hardly imagine anyone getting over it and you must have just been elated each time you jumped it. yeah it was funny like when I watched the video back you could see you could see was he was inexperienced, he didn’t really know how how to deal with the how to jump the wall you know first time he went a little bit quick or I’m saying he, me as well probably rode a bit quick and then second time I was maybe a bit far off and then you could see by the fifth round he’d really got the hang of it and he actually jumped the the biggest one, I can’t remember how big it was I think it was like 220 or some like that, he jumped the biggest one the best, yeah to win, yeah last to go just the circumstance as well I remember it was live it was live on BBC 2 as well, so I had all my schoolmates ring in me who didnt even, you know, know and stuff like that it was it was really good really really goo. Ah it must be quite emotional, I get emotional just being there you know from watching it as a youngster to then be in that environment after watching your uncle’s as well and wanting to do it and what does it take really do you think for a horse to be a good Puissance horse? They obviously need to be really brave really brave because you know when it gets to the big heights they can’t see what’s on the other side so they’ve got to trust the rider they’ve got to trust the rider that they’re not jumping into, you know jumping off a cliff or you know, so yeah they need to be very, they need to be very very brave and very scopey. Is there anything that you do, do you go hunting, do you go cross-country, are there any things that you do that actually help you show jumping. I’ve never, to be honest I’ve never been hunting ever in my life it’s on my to-do list. Just because those guys are crazy, I mean they’re so brave yeah go out galloping this isn’t about a lot of hunting this is about you know yeah going over the massive hedges I’d be going in the, apparently there’s gates that you can go around if you’re not brave enough. haha Yeah that would definitely be me. I’d be like You Go! I’ll catch you up so we can kind of I, like to keep my training mixed really of what I do, I do quite a lot of hacking and fitness work that way, flat work on a general week I do flat work three or four times a week, horses go in the field a lot depending a lot on the schedule as well like the younger horses we would jump a bit more because they need to learn and get experience at home whereas the older horses we do it as more of a more just to keep them fit and well in the bodies so yeah that’s kind of how we how we work really well you’ve recently moved out to Belgium so you’re no longer in the UK how many horses have you taken with you? We’ve got three horses that I’ve brought from from England and then I’m riding the stables where I am , I’m riding for a guy called Ludwig Criel, who owns the stable here and he has probably around 15 horses here in Belgium and I ride probably around eight of them. Oh okay, do you get to compete them as well? yeah I compete them as well yeah the horses I had in Windsor they were both from him, yeah yeah it’s quite a new thing I’ve only been here since September but yes it seems to be going well and I’ve got some very nice horses from him and also lucky to be able to bring my horses from home so yeah. What about your wife and kids were you allowed to bring them? I know, oh yes that’s a bit of a tough one really obviously I was, I could yeah they could come but Bella my little girl she’s five now so she’s in school so yes it’s a bit of a tough one really they’re at the moment, still in England because she’s busy with school and she’s settled in school so I didn’t, when it was a bit of a new thing for me I didn’t want to you know just rush and move them out of school straight away especially when when they were settled so at the moment. We forget about that you know, you’re a working dad and for a working dad it’s like it’s like you’re in the military or you’re a pilot you’re away a lot you just have to I guess get home as much as you can yeah it is, it can be tough sometimes, it can be tough yeah like I’m I try and get home as much as possible and we’re lucky now in England we do get quite a lot of good shows for instance Windsor and then we’ve got bolesworth and the Two Hickstead’s coming up so that they’ll be down there as well so that’ll be nice but yeah it is tough I would prefer to do it that way than to rush into things when you know Bella and Oliver involved at least I know at home they’re settled, she’s very settled in school so yeah that’s the way round we decided to do it. And you’re lucky that your wife Elizabeth is very supportive yes she is extremely supportive yeah I’m lucky I’m very lucky in that department. You picked a good’n! haha yeah Is she into horses does she ride? yes she did yeah we met actually she’s Swedish because she’s from Sweden and we met at a horse show in Italy- I think about eight and nine years ago now yeah and then she she moved she actually came to train at Michaels when I was there so that was kind of kind of the next step in the relationship yeah and it went from there really we were together for a while and yeah then we had kids and we got married and yes. Well you’ve done so much and what are you 27 28? I’m 27 yeah. oh gosh well at least she understands though, she’ll be more understanding because she’s been in the industry herself. yeah absolutely, I can imagine if you was you know that’s why I sympathize with these couples especially for our job you know you know any job in equestrian it’s like 24/7 in it you have to live and breathe it so I was lucky to find someone who lives and breathes it as well. What about Bella have you got her into horses? yes she’s got she’s got two ponies actually already she’s only 5! haha yes she enjoys riding I mean we don’t put any pressure on her just what she wants to do but she goes for riding lessons most Saturdays and she’s got a pony at home so yeah she’s she likes she likes grooming that she might be a groom I think. she’s a girl she likes making them look pretty. yeah yes she spends she spends an hour and half brushing and tacking up and then rides for about ten minutes. oh bless her Well, just going back to your riding then, last year amazing year, you won Hickstea. yeah I did yeah, I had a really really good year last year and yeah like a lot of changes but you know it was amazing to win the Derby at Hickstead, I’ve been tying for a few years and come close but not quite not quite won so to get the win last year it was yeah really really special so fingers crossed for this year then. Is there anything I don’t know, have you got extra training going? Because it’s difficult, once you’ve won it, it’s like oh is it added pressure or less pressure? To be honest I try not to think about it. I just go about the way, what we did, try and prepare as best we can. Make sure the horses are as fit and as well as possible yeah just concentrate on getting a job done again. Are you going back to using the same horses as last year yeah yeah what was he called he was… Glenavarda Brilliant he was called, Max, as we call him pretty good yeah are you taking max with you yeah he’s actually he’s here in Belgium actually at the moment is max. He has been in England throughout the winter, had a rest and then my brother James has been riding him in some shows he’s been great actually being going very well he was, he was sixth in the Grand Prix in a young rider Grand Prix last week with James here in Belgium . Ah amazing! Yeah and then kept him here in Belgium and he will go to Hamburg next week for a show there and then he’ll go back to England to get ready for the Derby. So you don’t actually spend that much time within them before you get there no not really no to be honest my brother’s doing all the preparation work with him but you know now I’ve moved out here to be honest he was very settled, the horse, at home so we decided that would be the best the best thing for him because he’s a big horse but he’s quite sensitive so we felt keep keeping him keeping him at home in England yeah keeping him at the yard in England would be the best, the best way for him. And there’s no rivalry between you and James because if that was me and my brother if I’d spent months training the horse I’d be like no go away I’m going to jump it. (laughs) yeah I could understand I could fully understand because I’d be the same if it got that way, but luckily he’s very supportive and to be honest he’s doing a really good job with him so far so yeah probably, probably better than what I would have done to be honest. So what was Royal Windsor like then it’s only a few weeks ago what was that experience like for you? yeah it was I was surprised actually it was a brilliant show, credit to the organisers and everyone involved . It’s incredible isn’t it. yeah It’s huge. To be honest it’s got better I think just trying to think when the last time I went, I didn’t go last year, I think it was the year before and I think I went two or three years previous to that and to be honest every year it just got better and better there’s been improvements every year with the facilities and the prize money and the star of the show this year was a five star so yeah to be honest I was really impressed I was really impressed we got some top riders from from abroad over which is always which is always great so yeah it was a very very good show. And did you get to meet the Queen I didn’t actually my brother my other brother George. Did he! yeah he got to meet her I saw her I saw her from a distance. (laughs) I did, I put on facebook that I had tea with the Queen I had a cup of tea while I was watching her give everybody their presentations (laughs) So what had George done to get to me her? it was, to be honest it was just, I don’t really know, I don’t really know, I actually don’t, he just said to me when I was at home said oh yeah I got to meet the Queen, I was like what? got to really meet her, like shake her hand and everything, he was like yeah yeah Ahh I loved her, I do I love the fact that she was carrying her own umbrella when it was raining laughs yeah I thought that as well I noticed that, amazing amazing, if I was king I’d definitely have an umbrella holder. (laughs) yeah it would be James (laughs) yeah ride my horse and hold my umbrella (laughs) Well it’s so exciting you know that your career already has just been incredible and what else have you got going on this year? well well yes we’re very busy like we’re going into a really busy busy time of the year now. We’ve pretty much got shows every week until September Really, do you not get a break? Not really to be honest like now is if if we like I went on holiday at the beginning of this year which was nice with the kids and stuff for a week but pretty much from now it gets really busy so and as you can imagine it it really takes some coordinated getting the horses here there and everywhere and making sure we’ve got enough enough people to help and everything so yeah we’ve got we’ve got a busy a busy few months ahead with some nation’s cup shows coming up which I’m very excited about and yes still still like like I said I’ve only been at this stable since September so still still building a relationship with some of the horses and yeah trying to improve it. Just keep going. So the level then that you’ve got up to now at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. Right it was five star at Windsor this year but did you jump the same since you jump in the same classes as Michael and John? Yeah I did yeah oh my gosh what was that like competing against them? yeah it’s good yeah it really good It’s nice it’s always nice especially at home on home home turf you know when John and Michael are there it’s yeah it’s good because you feel I don’t know really, you feel that you’ve kind of got someone there to talk to if you need anything yeah but when you get in the ring was just like any other competitor you know, you go try and beat them! Thats true (laughs) well you guys you know, your family, I’ve been looking at articles and things and they’re saying it’s the Whitaker Dynsaty? yeah they love that one, the Whitaker Dynasty yeah, It’s like we’re watching Dallas but as a family you know you’re really tight-knit your heritage in the showjumping world like I said I watched I watched your uncle’s growing up it was always they were the ones that you that you watched and it’s I think it’s lovely that you guys can actually train together compete together and actually enjoy that experience because there aren’t that many sports that you can do a whole family can do together. No definitely not and for such a long time as well you know yeah like I mean John and Michael have been at the top of our sport now, forever for all my life anyway so to kind of yet to kind of grow with them as my idols and then to work with them and then to start competing against them, it’s kind of, when you’re doing it you kind of don’t notice it happening but when you when you look back and think about you know how we have progressed over the years it’s you know it’s what we were aiming for it’s what we’re aiming for when I was when I was on ponies and young riders so yeah so to get to that level it’s always nice you never really feel like you’ve got to the level, you always feel like, for me anyway, that I need to keep improving and keep you know keep getting better every time I get on the horse here yeah. What do you see what would be your ultimate like your “I’ve done I’ve done the most I can possibly do now”? I don’t, I don’t know if you ever do get to that to that stage really because like you’d think John would have got to that stage years ago, yeah but you kind of, you just keep working with the horses you’ve got, trying to win trying to improve the horses you’ve got trying to improve yourself, well for me anyway and I know for John as well he you know it’s one of his sayings he’s like that it’s amazing with horses you never stop learning even him his age in his experience you’d think there can’t be much more to learn but there is plenty. Well fascinatingly I’ve just literally recorded interview with Professor Sue Dyson at the animal health trust. Oh yeah. An they’ve released this new study that she’s done which shows that you can tell if a horse is in pain by their facial expressions. Oh is that right. Which is amazing so we are always learning there’s always new things coming out all the time not only our riding and how we look after our horses but actually that I think I’m so passionate about horses horse geek over here but we’re learning about them as animals and their breeds and there’s always things to learn, but but ultimately I mean is there a competition that you’d like to win that would be your your huge goal I need to go to the Olympics maybe yeah definitely I think that’s my that’s my my main goal I think it would be most people’s you know goal, professionals goal anyway to go to the Olympics and to win a gold medal like like Nick did like Nick and you know like we all watched Nick a Big Star do which was amazing so yeah that definitely be my my sort of main goal if you like you well we’ll all be there rooting for you well. (Laughs) Thank you very much. I’ll be there in the sidelines with some pom-poms (laughs) thank you so so much for joining us on the HorseHour podcast can we follow you on Twitter and see what you get up to? yeah you can yeah you can follow me on Twitter. I post as much as possible as I can on there you know what my horses and my team have been doing what we’re getting up to and where we’re going also on Instagram and Facebook so What’s your Twitter handle? @will_whit89 Perfect and then Facebook as well because you post videos on there yeah Facebook is William Whitaker official and Instagram I think that’s just William Whitaker I think I’m not sure. Amazing just because you know we love to see what you’re getting up to and where you are and how you doing and then hopefully you and I can catch up at Hickstead Definitely yeag fingers crossed for you, we will be there taking photos and watching the competition it’s exciting thank you so so much and we will speak to you very soon no problem at all thanks very much Thanks so much for listening I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode with the lovely William Whitaker, next week you can hear Professor Sue Dyson she’s been conducting research with the animal health trust that asks the question is your horse naughty or is he actually in pain, well the answer’s written all over his face quite often we see our horses with their ears back their tongues hanging out they could be squinting their eyes we don’t actually know what those signs mean. Well Sue and the animal health trust are on a mission to help vets and owners recognize pain in ridden horses so that we can help the horses before it’s too late and Sue is going to explain what the signs are how she put the study together and how it’s going to help us really understand our horses health and what they’re trying to tell us with their expressions. As always you can catch up with previous episodes of the HorseHour podcast on our website just head to horsehour.co.uk and I love seeing your photos and your videos of what you’re getting up to, competition seasons here a lot of you are doing really well and some of you are competing for the first time so I hope you enjoy having that time with your horse do share with us on Twitter we’re @horsehour I’m @AmyStevenson1 and we’re on Facebook and Instagram too. Hope you have a great week with your horse and I’ll speak to you soon you’ve been listening to HorseHour, join the community on Twitter Mondays 8 p.m. UK time 3:00 p.m. Eastern by using the hashtag #HorseHour follow Amy @AmyStevenson1 and subscribe to us on Acast itunes stitcher and player FM

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