The crux of the matter

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Hi everyone.
Is it possible for an ordinary individual with limited funding to compete at a high level ?
I've read on the social media that top dressage horses can cost over a million pounds which is way out of my league.
What about showjumping, there are ex race horses for sale ,can they be retrained for jumping over fences ?
I would appreciate the advice anybody has on this matter.
 

SilverLinings

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A huge number of top level competitors didn't get there by being wealthy in the first place- they displayed the talent, dedication and hard work to attract sponsors and owners. Not many professional competitors own their top level horses outright, they either own a share in them or they are owned entirely by someone else (in the same way that jockeys and racehorse trainers don't own the horses they race). There are still people who get to quite high levels by producing a horse bought young and cheap, but you would probably need to purchase and produce a few before you ended up with one with sufficient ability to get to the top, and would need to be suitable talented and capable to get the horse there. A lot of professional competitors also fund their competing by bringing on young horses and selling them for a profit, either because the horse wouldn't make it to the top, or because the rider really needs the money at the time (so may have to sell a horse with excellent prospects in order to pay bills etc). Even for those lucky few who were born wealthy a lot of hard work and dedication is still needed to get to the very top of any of the disciplines.
 

nikicb

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There are plenty of examples of one horse amateur riders competing at the higher levels in dressage. The question you need to consider is whether you want to be competitive at those levels, or are happy just to have got there and are satisfied with making up the numbers.
 

Goldenstar

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A really famous and successful trainer said to me to succeed at the high level depends on three things Talent Money and Dedication have all three you will succeed
And two of the three will do .
 

stangs

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You can get somewhat far as a competitive rider with opportunity and luck alone, but people aren't given opportunities equally - e.g., those who born into a horsey family with their own facilities at home will save on livery, those who live in the middle of nowhere will have to spend more to get to competitions and good training, etc. The fewer opportunities you have naturally, the more you need funding to acquire more.

(But, yes, you can retrain ex-racers for showjumping, dressage, whatever you want, but you need to be a skilled rider to do so, and there's no guarantee that they'll be competitive at higher levels.)
 
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Thank you for the answers. There was a french man who rode a horse named Jappeloup that won an Olympic show jumping gold medal in 1988. Apparently that was quite a small horse. As people have mentioned dedication is paramount, which means training 5-6 times a week, which will improve talent (expertise) in horse riding.
 

milliepops

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A really famous and successful trainer said to me to succeed at the high level depends on three things Talent Money and Dedication have all three you will succeed
And two of the three will do .
Hmm. i think one of the two needs to be money, regardless, if by success you mean actual top flight shows.
I say that as someone who believes that training/riding at top levels is possible with the other 2. but you do need the cash to actually "make it", even just for something as simple as running a horsebox to get to the shows ;)
 

The Fuzzy Furry

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Thank you for the answers. There was a french man who rode a horse named Jappeloup that won an Olympic show jumping gold medal in 1988. Apparently that was quite a small horse. As people have mentioned dedication is paramount, which means training 5-6 times a week, which will improve talent (expertise) in horse riding.
Pierre Durand rode him, he was a very talented rider. The horse was only 15.2, but far bigger than the indomitable Stroller who was under 14.2.

OP, I believe in previous posts you said you are in your 50s? You might find it a struggle to attain to a top standard if just starting out, but it's great to be keen and I hope you continue to enjoy training 🙂
 

Wishfilly

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I think things have changed a lot since the 80s, and even the 90s (although I was very young then, so I may be wrong). It feels like over the last 10 years or so, the costs of competing have increased a lot- particularly in eventing, but in all affiliated disciplines, to an extent. You need to have a level of money to pay for training, transport, entries etc, which puts even low level affliated competing out of reach for a lot of horse owners (never mind those who can't afford a horse!).

If you want to buy a ready to go competition horse, for any discipline, you are probably not looking at millions, but certainly tens of thousands- on an animal that might injure itself in the field the day it arrives! That's a huge risk for most people. And obviously you need to have the skill to ride said horse!

If you're looking at buying a young horse and bringing it on yourself, you need to have a lot of talent, probably a good support network in terms of trainers etc, and you still need a level of luck to keep your horse sound, and to find competition success. And even an unbacked, well bred youngster will set you back ££££

So, then you're looking at buying something that is not bred for the job. People do have success with ex-racers in all disciplines, and with a range of breeds in dressage especially- not every top dressage horse cost tens of thousands as a youngster. But if you buy a horse not bred for the job, I think you stack the deck against yourself, to some extent.

You do still see people who are pretty much one horse riders with full time day jobs competing successfully at FEI levels in all disciplines, but I think the higher you go, the less common they become. And the more competing you do, and the further you need to travel to get to those competitions, again, the harder it becomes to just afford the costs of it. Plus all the running costs of a top competition horse, etc.

The more limited your funds, the harder it is. I think it's a different consideration if the ultimate aim is to turn professional, but if the question is about amateur riders with just one horse or maybe one established horse and a youngster coming up behind, I do think it costs a lot- and balancing a high paying job with high level competing is not easy either!

I know people do it- on this forum, we see people do it to some degree of success in a range of disciplines! But I don't think many people do it on a truly shoestring budget, and the more corners you cut, the higher the chances of something going wrong.
 

milliepops

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Laura Collett started having major wins at 13.
While i agree she has huge grit and talent, to be succeeding at that age doesn't particularly demonstrate that money didn't come into it, more that someone else must have been paying the bills?

No denying Carl got there pulling himself up by his bootstraps. But i think these examples demonstrate you have to be in it from basically childhood if you aren't wealthy (or have family backing). Much harder for an adult who already has bills and responsibilities to make it to the top while working to pay the bills with no spare cash, no matter how talented. as the OP referred to an "ordinary individual" that's the sort of person i thought they were meaning.
 

Wishfilly

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To some extent, the costs of competing aren't just about a horse. I know when we get into the £50k+ it's a bit different, but the running costs to keep a horse on the road competing aren't cheap.

I know someone who competes in endurance, and has previously competed at FEI levels. Even at the moment, with just a young horse getting through the levels, she thinks she is spending over £10k a year on keeping the horse and the costs of competing. When she found her last horse wasn't standing up to races over 40km, she took a break to save up for a new one, rather than trying to buy cheap. I know an endurance bred arab doesn't cost as much as a dressage bred warmblood, but the point is, to some extent, you stand a better chance of success if you get a horse bred for the job.

Obviously buying an ex-racer for another discipline can be an order of magnitude cheaper- but it will cost the same (if not more) to run, and you're taking a bigger risk that they may never suit the work.

I also agree that someone who's been on teams since they are a teenager isn't an "ordinary individual").
 

Ambers Echo

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Plenty of riders fund their own horses and competitions through teaching, sales livery, schooling, breaking etc. I have friends and trainers who have ridden up to 4* and one who is a BHS Level 5 coach. Some have their own yards. They earn their money with those other activities though: teaching, schooling and having liveries. Not by riding. But this has allowed them to compete to a high level. They have to work incredibly hard though to earn enough to fund it. And they tend to have youngsters they bring on.
 

Ambers Echo

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I also agree that someone who's been on teams since they are a teenager isn't an "ordinary individual").
I know a few kids aiming for or have already been on the teams. Most have had the money to spend 6 figures on a PT pony and I think this will be a childhood adventure for them - not a career. But one was turning ordinary ponies into winning ponies very young, and then quality ponies into top class performers. He was then given the ride on a fairly ordinary horse and has turned that into a consistent winner very quickly. I genuinely think he could make it as a pro rider. He does have a horsey family who supported his ability. But has not bought proven horses.
 

milliepops

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when i read the question i wasn't interpreting it as "could a kid make it with loads of support" though. i would class a horsey family who have the time, knowledge and inclination to help when necessary, provide transport, lessons etc as quite a lot of support compared to an average person.

My mum has said she regrets not supporting me more as a child now, because she understands now how critical it can be for turning horses into a career. And i HAD a pony... albeit one that they tried to get me to agree to sell just about every week :p so was streets ahead of someone who never even got to start riding regularly at that age. i understand why they didn't encourage me, because they thought it was a dead end career. I don't think they had any idea that 30 years later it would still be the only thing that made my heart beat a little faster ;)
 

Ambers Echo

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Yes I was trying to say that even with money, a degree of talent and dedication, most successful kid riders do not succeed as adults on horses. It is very very difficult. This lad stood out from very young. But he still had to grow up with ponies for his talent to be realised. If you have to start young and be competing young, that rules out most of the population! Hence these riding dynasties where multiple people from the same family get to the top. Occasionally you get siblings or parent/child successful in other sports. But not nearly as often.

But I think you can compete to a high level if you make horses/riding your career via coaching/schooling etc If you have talent/determination and are willing to work incredibly hard then you can make it happen. Or someone like Tik Maynard who went round the world taking jobs as a working pupil in multiple yards of great riders in his quest to be as good as he could be. He worked with Johan Hinneman, Ingrid Klimke, Karen and David O'Connor and many others.
 

milliepops

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ah i see. yes, i agree, you can be as talented as you like but if no one puts you on a pony, no one will ever know :p

I agree re the people who work their way up but again i do think it needs to be something that is committed to before the whole rigmarole of adulthood descends on you - you need to be footloose and fancy free in order to be able to move away to WP type jobs so again there's a window of opportunity which comes prior to getting into a long term relationship, having babies etc
 

TPO

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Or someone like Tik Maynard who went round the world taking jobs as a working pupil in multiple yards of great riders in his quest to be as good as he could be.
But he himself comes from a horsey family with access to horses, training and contacts (I'd also assume money too but I don't know). Not taking away from his achievements but he has a good head start.

He was also in the position where he could afford not to be paid while incurring living and travel expenses knowing that he had a set up to go back to. Very few people have those privileges.

Again I'm not taking away from him and liked his book but he's far from being in the same category as "us".
 

milliepops

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But he himself comes from a horsey family with access to horses, training and contacts (I'd also assume money too but I don't know). Not taking away from his achievements but he has a good head start.

He was also in the position where he could afford not to be paid while incurring living and travel expenses knowing that he had a set up to go back to. Very few people have those privileges.

Again I'm not taking away from him and liked his book but he's far from being in the same category as "us".
ah yeah interesting. I nearly took some WP options straight out of college but even for a "name" the pay was so low i wouldn't have been able to run the car that they told me was necessary, given the location.
There's often a lot of talk in the horse world re "you just need to work hard", i would say you can't get anywhere without that but it's a gross oversimplification!
 

Ambers Echo

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Yes all true. Can we think of anyone famous or personally who truly 'made it' without money and privilege?

I know a girl who went to work for a name at Somerford at 16 after leaving school but the pay (and treatment) was shocking and she gave up quickly. The BHS Level 5 person did not have a lot of money or support. When I first knew her she was just a young AI at the local riding school - she taught my kids to ride initially 10 or so years ago. She has worked incredibly hard and had WP positions including with Carl Hester. But she does not even have a horse anymore. Priced out and not well known emough to be paid to compete anyone else's apart from competing for students occasionally at entry level stuff. So she does not have a lot to show for her years of effort - though she does have a successful coaching career! But I doubt that was the dream really.

But I still think coaching is your best route to funding competing. If you are good enough. Because of you ARE good enough you can make your own horses which is essential unless you are very rich!
 

Alibear

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I think if you're trying to achieve this based purely on talent and dedication. Then you need more than one talent, you need to be good at riding and producing horses, plus you need to be good a networking and getting on with people. Then you have a chance of getting the backers needed to get you set up with the starter yard, access to ongoing training, competition fees and transport etc to produce a few good youngsters, to sell to get your name out there and get some owners. Plus a large amount of luck, that those youngsters work out and don't break/get in accidents.

But with the divisions of wealth changing as they are, those initial backers are even rarer than they were in the 80s and 90s.
 

Orangehorse

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Mary King didn't have a horsey background, she borrowed the vicar's pony to ride something and she was a Working Pupil. Laura Collet used to buy ponies, break them in and sell them and worked up.

I think that it isn't just being "talented" but be willing to learn.

I have known many riders who weren't professionals as such, but spent nearly all their time riding and competiting and they said they had to sell (an expensive) horse every year to keep going.
 
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Thank you everyone for the profound comments. It would appear many top equestrian dedicate there lives to the sport. There are riders that have suffered serious injuries and courageously come back to win top competitions, this is inspiring. As someone in there very early 50's (51), I enjoy horse riding and will gradually improve my riding expertise. In the future, sharing a horse would be the smartest way forward.
 

Goldenstar

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The pony , Noble Springbok that started off Lauras career was inexpensive because it could not pass the vet she made it into one of the most successful event ponies ever
Her mother was a single parent , Laura has no contact with her father .
Nothing except grit and exceptional talent and a wonderful parent got her to where she is today .


Laura Collett started having major wins at 13.
While i agree she has huge grit and talent, to be succeeding at that age doesn't particularly demonstrate that money didn't come into it, more that someone else must have been paying the bills?

No denying Carl got there pulling himself up by his bootstraps. But i think these examples demonstrate you have to be in it from basically childhood if you aren't wealthy (or have family backing). Much harder for an adult who already has bills and responsibilities to make it to the top while working to pay the bills with no spare cash, no matter how talented. as the OP referred to an "ordinary individual" that's the sort of person i thought they were meaning.
 

milliepops

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I might sound like i'm a broken record but that "wonderful parent" is a pretty massive resource!

even the most talented and dedicated young person can't get anywhere without someone able to pay entry fees and drive the horsebox ;)
 

SEL

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I might sound like i'm a broken record but that "wonderful parent" is a pretty massive resource!

even the most talented and dedicated young person can't get anywhere without someone able to pay entry fees and drive the horsebox ;)
oh yes!! A friend of mine is living the youth she wished to have through her daughter. She told me how much debt she'd run up once and I went pale. Her daughter is having the pony life I wished I'd had as a kid but my parents didn't have the cash nor the interest
 
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