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Sarah Skillin


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10 Questions with Imogen Murray, Age 24, on the Road to Badminton 2.0

Image courtesy of Tim Wilkinson.

Imogen Murray, age 24, from Leicestershire, returns to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials a year on from being crowned the Highest Placed Under 25 Rider. Riding Ivan Gooden, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Young Convinced x Ballybrohan Diamond, by Coevers Diamond Boy), Imogen will be aiming to make it three-for-three double clears at CCI4* level.

One of only two combinations to jump a double clear at both Badminton and Burghley in 2017, Imogen and “Charles” were riding high last season. With abandonments aplenty at the start of the 2018 season they are not letting the weather put a dampener on their preparations with a personal best in the dressage at Burnham Market CIC3*.

“We had an incredible season last year,” Imogen says. “A double clear at Badminton was a bit of a dream come true, but replicating it at Burghley was just incredible. Charles is feeling very well and is in great form, despite the limited preparations, so we are all very excited for our first four-star of the year. We’ve worked hard on his dressage over the winter, which was seen in his personal best at Burnham and he’s in winning show jumping form, following a win in the B/C Handicap at Arena UK last week.”

Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden. Image courtesy of Tim Wilkinson.

Get to know the leading under 25 four-star rider:

1. When did your first start riding and who was your first pony/horse?

“I first started riding when I was 4 at the local riding school, Witham Villa. I learnt on a pony called Topper, a British Miniature Spotted and also a very typical cheeky chap. My first pony I had at home was Misty, 10.2-hand Shetland Cross breed who was sold from the riding school as he made too many appearances in the accident book for naughty behavior — he possibly set the tone for the future and me being drawn to horses with a bit of something about them.”

2. When did you first decide to become a professional event rider?

“On the day I received my GCSE results — which were an almost full string of As. I was in the school playground and thought this really isn’t what I want to do. I did have to persuade my parents though, but I think they were fully aware – I was never going to go to university!”

3. Who has been your biggest supporter to date?

“My family. Mum really is the backbone of the yard, she runs the show! She is also chief plaiter and polisher … and has to ensure my stock is tied properly! Dad is chief funding provider. He tries to come to as many events as possible and is often seen pacing around the warm up arenas. I’ve also got a great string of owners, many of whom have been with me for a long time. They come and watch even when their own horses aren’t competing.”

4. What is your ultimate goal?

“It’s a very demanding sport, physically, mentally and financially. So, to be able to survive long enough in the sport at the top level to then be able to look back and have memories of great horses competing at some great venues.”

5. Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“There’s been many over the years but the one that always sticks comes from Steven James, who trained me for many years — just as I was entering a dressage arena I would hear him say ‘bum in, boobs out, it’s show time!’ I never failed to enter down that centre line with a smile.”

6. How do you like to relax? 

“Sleep … I do love a good nap, or a good film.”

7. Favourite song?

“‘Build Me Up Buttercup,’ or anything from Disney.”

8. What piece of advice would you now give yourself 10 years ago?

“Don’t rush to get there, I’ve been incredibly lucky with some of the horses I’ve been able to ride. When you’re younger, you’re always racing to make that next step up, as you get older you realise without proper foundations it will soon come tumbling down.”

9. What do you do to stay fit, other than riding?

“Pilates. I have regular pilates sessions to help my core stability which is really important. In the summer I will also cycle and run when I have the time but more because I enjoy it than to stay fit.”

10. What advice would you give someone just starting their eventing career?

 “Learn from the best, and watch the best. And you can never work hard enough.”


Five Questions with Badminton Rookie Alexander Whewall

Alexander Whewall and Chakiris Star. Photo by Lucy Hall.

Alexander Whewall, 31, from Easton-in- Gordano in North Somerset, is set to make his debut appearance at the world famous Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials in May. Riding Lisa Coward’s 11-year-old bay gelding, Chakiris Star, the local rider has his sights set on a strong Badminton completion following a top-20 finish at Les Etoiles de Pau in October 2017, their first CCI4* competition.

“I’m really excited to get to Badminton, and just hope we will both be on form!” Alex says.

The former British Eventing Intermediate Champion and 2016 Bridging The Gap Scholar has his final preparations underway. Despite numerous cancellations and abandonments Chakiris Star was entered in the Advanced class at Burnham Market International which ran prior to the event having to be abandoned.

He reports, “Chakiris Star went really well at Burnham Market and made the tough cross country feel very easy! This was a really good confidence giving run for him and even better to finish in the top 10.”

Alexander Whewall and Chakiris Star. Photo by Lucy Hall.

In the spirit of getting to know Alex, we asked him five quick-fire questions:

1. What made you want to event and become a professional rider?

“I loved jumping and the idea of jumping and going fast around the cross country thrilled me. I did my first event when I was 16. I was still at school and I knew I didn’t want to do anything else but work/ride with horses! I started working at a local event yard and never looked back.”

2. What’s been your biggest challenge faced during your career so far?

“I’ve never had a ready-made horse. I’ve always had to make and produce the horses I ride. However, I think this has worked for the better I the long run as it has made me understand and work with different horses.”

3. What advice would you give someone starting their eventing career?

“There are lots of highs and lows, you will work long hours, but it’s worth it when your horses go out and go well! The more you put in the more you get out.”

4. What do you do for fun?

“I go for dinner with friends and occasional wild nights on the tiles!”

5. Hot or cold holidays?

“I like both. My brother and sister live in Sydney, Australia, so I like to visit them but I also love to go skiing in the French Alps”