‘It’s been a bit crazy!’ Harry Charles reflects on an unbelievable 12 months

  • The past 12 months have been monumental in the showjumping career of 22-year-old British rising star Harry Charles and, as he prepares to compete in the Rolex grand prix at Royal Windsor Horse Show this afternoon (Sunday, 15 May) he revealed just how much has changed.

    “A lot has happened since Royal Windsor Horse Show last year,” says Harry, speaking as a Rolex testimonee in a round table event organised by grand prix sponsors Rolex. “The show was a bit later last year [in July, owing to Covid restrictions] and it was the last big run before the Olympics. The top six in the grand prix were all combinations that went to Tokyo.

    “It’s been crazy since then! I feel more experienced as a rider, and as a person I can deal with the pressures of the sport. I’m a better horseman than I was a year ago and I’m in a better position this year – I have an incredible team of horses and people behind me now. Last year kick-started it and I plan just to keep going now.”

    ‘He embodies that mindset as well as anyone I’ve ever seen’

    Harry is now ranked number 21 in the world and he is the top ranked under-25 athlete, a graduate of Rolex’s prestigious young rider academy. Last month the Hampshire-based rider finished fourth in his first World Cup Final on the back of his Olympic debut last year, and his fellow Rolex testimonee Kent Farrington was quick to praise Harry’s attributes as a horseman.

    “I admire his ambition – I see him as fearless at his age to go to big competitions and not be scared by higher level competitors that are much more experienced and that you’ve watched through your whole career,” says Kent.

    “I remember that step in my own career, so seeing him come up through the ranks, watching him jumping at Geneva for his first time and seeing him at his first bigger five-star shows and going in to not only try to do well but trying to win – that’s a mindset that starts when you’re young and carries on through your career. That’s my favourite thing to see in an up-and-coming rider and he embodies that as well as anyone I’ve ever seen.”

    Harry says he’s also inspired competing alongside such successful riders as Kent.

    “I cannot remember a year when I haven’t seen Kent win something here at Royal Windsor Horse Show,” says Harry. “He was a long-time world number one rider I really look up to and on Sundays we all fear him – he’s always there or thereabouts – he’s had a great career, he’s a great horseman, he manages his horses fantastically to be at the top level for so many years, which is something I’d love to now emulate one day. He’s a fearless competitor.”

    Royal Windsor Horse Show: ‘It’s a special place in our family’s hearts’

    To Royal Windsor Horse Show, Harry has brought his top horses Stardust, the World Cup winner at the London International Horse Show, and Borsato, his grand prix victor from the same event, as well as new ride Billabong Du Roumois, with whom he won Sunday morning’s speed class.

    “This is my favourite show of the year,” says Harry. “It’s the only show where I can go home and sleep in my own bed every night. It’s a very special place in all of our family’s hearts. I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid. My whole family is here and all my friends from school, and they’ve been coming for a few years now, it’s a great day out. Even though they’re not horsey themselves they get a great buzz from the show. All the owners want their horse jumping here, it’s just a favourite of everyone.

    “I’ve been on a really good run of form and I have an amazing string of horses this year. Stardust has won some good classes but she’s still maybe inexperienced at this top, top level,” says Harry of the 12-year-old Chacco-Blue mare. “She’s light on her feet and short striding. She’s super careful and really fast.”

    Looking ahead to the rest of the year, Harry will be targeting big shows such as Aachen, with hopes to attend Spruce Meadows too, with the showjumping world championships a big goal.

    “Aachen was the first Rolex show I did four years ago and I’ve not been back to the venue since,” he says. “From that show, a lot happened and I got so many more opportunities. It’ll be the first time in several years that the British have a team there so that’s going to be really cool – it would be a dream to jump there on the Thursday night for that Nations Cup.

    “These shows bring another level of prestige – the big green and yellow Rolex combination brings a real sense of occasion every Sunday that they put on a grand prix and the Rolex Grand Slam has elevated it to another level.

    “The World Championships remains one of the biggest goals this year so we’ll build up for that over the summer. As a team, we’re hoping to walk away from there with a medal.”

    With thanks to Rolex.

    • Keep following all the action from Royal Windsor Horse Show both online and in next week’s magazine, in the shops on Thursday, 19 May.

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