Saturday 22nd of January 2022
Jeanette Brakewell

You can’t keep a good girl down

Jeanette Brakewell’s eventing career has been nothing if not stellar. It includes four European Championship team gold medals, two Olympic team silvers, one world team silver – and of course, a rarity for the regular team pathfinder, an individual World silver medal.

© Tony Meredith

The horse that shot her in to the limelight was the inimitable Over To You, ‘Jack’ to his friends or ‘Sprut’ back at the yard. Jeanette gained the ride on the then five-year-old Jack back in 1993, and through careful training he moved confidently up the levels.

Within five years the pair were awarded their Union Jack flag for the 1997 World Equestrian Games in Pratoni.

“I remember doing the final trial at Henbury, staying overnight to do a trot up – and within 24 hours getting the call to say I was on the squad. I was soooo excited,” Jeanette remembers.

© Hilary Manners

The following year they won their first team gold medal at the Luhmuhlen Europeans, swiftly followed by silver at the Sydney Olympics and gold again at the Pau Europeans. Then, in 2002, came the biggest result of Jeanette’s career to date: team bronze and individual silver at the World Equestrian Games in Jerez.

“That was the proudest moment of my life, I think,” says Jeanette. “I never thought I would top representing Team GBR at my first Olympics in Sydney two years earlier, but that did it.”

Jack was a jumping machine, and in 2003 the pair posted their best Badminton result – third. They were the only combination that year to complete on their dressage score, a huge achievement. Further top 10 placings at Badminton followed, along with team gold medals at Punchestown and Blenheim Europeans and team silver at the Athens Olympics.

© Tony Meredith

Jeanette’s partner of a lifetime hung up his competitive boots 10 years ago, but at the grand old age of 30 he is still ridden and still rules the yard – a real testament to the management skills of both Jeanette and her team.

“I believe some horses are naturally sound and good healers where as others need managing,” she explains. “It’s important that a horse is brought to full fitness correctly and conditioned properly to start with – then it’s a case of stressing but not straining a horse to get to 3 day fitness.

“Ground conditions have to be taken into consideration as to what pace you run at during one day events. The three day events are always my main aim and focus; you want to give it your all to produce the best result possible at the big competitions.”

Throughout Jack’s illustrious career Jeanette was simultaneously producing other horses, including Burley Wood who went on to finish 12th at Burghley, and the stallion McGuigan who won the CIC3* at Chatsworth. In 2002, the year of her Jerez success, Jeanette rode two horses into the top 10 at Burghley, The Busker and Plantagenent of Rushall. She also took Major Buck, Chill Out Bob and Lets Dance to four star and produced Take It 2 The Limit, Hope Cove, Ideal Sebastian, Kec Salza and Forever Red to three star.

“It takes a long time to produce a 4* horse, but having produced several horses to that level it is very rewarding and I have learnt that it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a mega talented horse to get there. The main thing is that the horse is brave and trainable, the rest is down to training, always keeping the horse confident, and growing as a partnership,” she reveals.

“You are only as good as the team around you – and it’s a big team. In my younger years I had up to 15 horses competing which was a hard slog – I managed because I had youth on my side! These days I prefer to have a smaller team, 10 would be ideal, so I can concentrate on giving all of them plenty of my time.

“I have always had working pupils who I love helping and pushing them to achieve their goals – I tell them all at the start that they will get out of it what they put in. I also enjoy my coaching which, having a smaller number of horses, also allows me to do.”

Despite currently being a British Team selector, Jeanette’s team aspirations are still very much alive.

© Tony Meredith

“I really enjoy being part of the selection team, and have undoubtedly learnt lots by watching other riders more, but I would love to be back on a team.

“I feel I have gained so much experience over the years, both in my riding ability and in maturity. If Toddy is still going at 60 I have a few more Olympics left in me but it’s all down to horse power, which I am lacking at the moment. The will, the drive and the ambition is still there and I have built up a wonderful set up at home over the years, which I am very proud of.

“I am as hungry as I have ever been to succeed and be at the top again, but I need the horses. I suppose being off the radar in recent years people are not necessarily aware of my ambitions but I hope to get that message out there!”

Watch this space… and Jeanette will be writing occasional comment features on The Gaitpost over the coming months.

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