Becci Harrold & My Harlequin Lady (Left and middle) and Shannondale Annie (right)
Eventing is one of the few sports where amateurs and professionals go head to head, and I always find it inspiring and remarkable when amateurs come to the fore, often juggling the day to day care and training / fitness of their horses with a full time job in an unrelated field. Becci inspires me for her ability to consistently train young horses and bring them up through the lower levels of eventing, competing on par with elite riders, all as a hobby. That's why she is my first #HeadstrongHero. Here's what Becci had to say in interview...
Headstrong Equestrian - Tell me a bit about your background... when did you start riding and how did you get into eventing?
Becci Harrold - "I started riding at the age of nine at my local riding club and immediately became hooked. It wasn't long before I was begging my parents for my first pony, but first I had to prove that this wasn't just a passing phase and would be something I would stick at. I remember on my first lesson my pony was really naughty and bucked a few times I managed to stay on although was very traumatised at the time I think the fact I asked to go back my mum new I wasn't going to be put off easily!
"At thirteen I was introduced to competing on a wonderful 14.2hh Irish Sport Horse mare called Kiera which my parents had bought me when I was 13. She was such a star, I took her to Pony Club activities and to the local riding club competitions which were always exciting, but best of all I got to take her to our first British Eventing affiliated competitions. Although we were not placed in our three events the thrill and excitement was enough for me to realise that this was what I wanted to do and so the search began for my first proper event horse."
Headstrong Equestrian - Who has been your horse of a lifetime so far?
Becci Harrold - "All my horses throughout my life have been very influential, however I owe an awful lot to Pokeys Puzzle who gave me such incredible opportunities, taught me so much and made me known as an ambitious amateur event rider in the eventing world!"
Headstrong Equestrian - Which equestrian achievement are you most proud of?
Becci Harrold - "It has to be completing my first CCI* at Osberton (2011 riding Pokeys Puzzle) coming 35/115. I never thought I would get to that level when I first started out eventing."
Headstrong Equestrian - As an amateur rider, how do you manage to look after, keep fit and compete 2 horses as well as hold down your day job?
Becci Harrold - "Just reading that question makes me want to take a big deep breath! It's a lot to fit in and involves a lot of organising, but to put it plain and simple I couldn't do any of it without my mum she's a total legend."
Headstrong Equestrian - What does a normal day look like for you?
Becci Harrold - "I have a totally different life in summer than I do in the winter. At the minute I get up at 6.30, head to work which is a half an hour drive, open up let the cleaner in and usually try and catch up on work, update my website and sponsors before the shop opens at 8.30. We only get a half an hour break for dinner and finish at 5. I'm usually on my feet all day dealing/serving customers, working on locks, keys and car keys, managing our advertising, website and social media plus work in accounts and answer telephones so it's very varied. I get home and do the night shift with the horses but getting back around 5.45 I only get to ride at weekends. I'm lucky my mum helps me out in the mornings and loves a weekly lesson with Sarah Healy to help bring my youngster on.
"In summer I ride most evenings and compete or train every weekend. I also get more time off in the week if I have an event I fancy doing which is really handy."
Headstrong Equestrian - You do an excellent job of securing sponsors – what are your tips for gaining and keeping successful partnerships?
Becci Harrold - "Sponsorship is all about the two way partnership. I can't stress that enough. You've got to think if a company is investing in you and supplying you with product or funds they require something back for that and I try to give lots of advertising opportunities. A lot of my sponsors have become friends over the years and we have a great close relationship. They are all so supportive and I'm really grateful to be able to work with such amazing companies."
Headstrong Equestrian - How important is it to you to get good results when competing?
Becci Harrold - "It's extremely important - to myself more than anyone else I think. I never feel pressured by sponsors or supporters and love writing about the ups and the downs, that's what eventing is about after all. There's nothing more rewarding than getting a ribbon for all your hard work."
Headstrong Equestrian - What is your horse ‘type’?
Becci Harrold - "Irish all the way!"
Headstrong Equestrian - You have a penchant for producing horses up through the lower levels of eventing – what is your secret?
Becci Harrold - "I love producing babies it's so rewarding and exciting. You never know where one will take you or where they will end up. I've made some of my closest friends through the buying and selling of horses so I'm really lucky when it comes to getting a new one and my friend Holly gives me a call!"
Headstrong Equestrian - In recent years you’ve seen Pokeys Puzzle and Candy Blue (Becci's horses) move on to pastures new so that you could welcome your new young stars to produce, in much the same way as the professionals do. How hard is it to do that, and do you think it’s an inevitable part of being able to fund and progress in the sport?
Becci Harrold - "Absolutely I couldn't afford to event without sadly. As we all know prize money in eventing is something you don't get excited about so they only way for me to be able to compete in the sport I love is this way.
"It's the hardest thing having to let go a horse you've had for 4+ years my mum and I cried so bad when Puzzle & Candy left for their new homes. But like I mentioned before they both went to the best homes you could ever ask for and their new owners always keep in touch and are great friends of mine."
Headstrong Equestrian - What are your main aims for the 2015 season and beyond? Would you ever consider going pro or are you committed to being a serious amateur?
Becci Harrold - "I've thought about going professional before, I would love to produce more young horses up the levels at the same time, however I feel I have such a good balance at work and with the horses, it's my hobby, I always look forward to riding and competing it's all fun for me and I want it to stay that way."
To find out more about Becci and her current horses Lady and Annie, visit her website or find her on Facebook and Twitter.