2014 saw Harry Meade notch up a fair few accolades and rightly so. He won the Event Horse Owners Association, Event Riders Association and British Equestrian Writers Association Rider of the Year and is destined to be one of the greats of our time.
Meade, who made an incredible comeback at Badminton last year after breaking both elbows, finished third with Wild Lone and went on to be selected for the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, where he was part of the silver medal winning team. The tragic death of Wild Lone who collapsed after his clear cross country at WEG was devastating for no one more than Harry.
Without a 4* ride for now, we caught up with Harry as he looked forward to Badminton without the competition nerves.
How has the start to the season been?
It’s always interesting at the start of the season to see how the horses come out after a winter of training. It’s only in competition that you really know where you are. So far, this season has been pretty good – the horses came out very strongly at their first lot of events and we have a few horses that are in the process of moving up levels, which is always rewarding. We’ve had a bit of a conscious clear out, and only have six horses competing, we’re able to concentrate on each horse. We’re actively looking for horses and are now in a position to take on others should they come our way.
2014 was bitter sweet for you. How have you come to terms with the loss of Wild Lone?
It was heartbreaking and is still very raw, but we had no option other than to accept it and remember the wonderful times together. There was no avoidable reason for it, which made it easier to come to terms with. I’m lucky to have very supportive people around me, all of whom were affected by it too so it wasn’t something I went though on my own.
Riding is in your blood, you must have some special memories.
Growing up, we were surrounded by overseas students who were based with my father – the likes of Matt Ryan, Lucinda Fredericks and a whole host of others who went on to ride on championship teams – in a way they were surrogate siblings. When I was four Matt used to recite the Australian poem ‘The Man from Snowy River’ to me each night before bed; a few years later he won a gold medal in Barcelona, which was a real inspiration.
What inspires you within the equestrian world?
Talented horses – only rarely do you come across one with outstanding natural talent, and experiencing that excites me more than anything.
Is there an all-time favourite yard/stables that you’ve been to? And why?
William Fox-Pitt’s yard is amazing. You don’t have to walk more than 20 meters from the tack room to get to any stable; it’s all be very cleverly thought out. I spent a couple of days at the Royal Stud last year which was fascinating, I think a yard should be practical and functional, but also have a bit of traditional character – horses might settle in one part of a yard but not in another part, if everything’s too uniform it doesn’t always work to the horses’ advantage.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I guess that we all have things that we want to achieve in sport – you have certain aims and targets but one of the difficult things about sport is that you’re never going to be totally happy – if you achieve a target you then immediately set yourself another one. I would love to win Badminton and be on a gold medal winning Olympic team, as would many! Perhaps an equally important legacy is not just a list of achievements, but the way you go about it – the way you ride your horses and the way you conduct yourself.
Do you have an equestrian hero?
My father played a big part in my life. He was the reason I wanted, and still want, to compete at top level.
William Fox-Pitt has also been hugely influential in my career. I went to work for him for a couple of years when I was 20, which permanently shaped they way I do things. He’s an outstanding horseman and a phenomenal competitor at top level. After I left, he continued to be someone that I’d call up and ask for advice and he’s since become a good friend.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given?
My father taught me from an early age not to proverbially try to put ‘a square peg in a round hole’ – he was particularly good at finding the key to talented horses that didn’t fit the standard mould.
What is the quality that you most like in a horse?
Real athleticism. It’s a quality that looks after a lot of their needs in all three phases.
How do you unwind/relax?
We have two small children, which is more fun than I could have ever imagined. I do enjoy listening to audiotapes on the long journeys to and from events – I never get time to read and it makes easy listening of otherwise heavy novels. The likes of War and Peace are epics but virtually unreadable!
Tell us something about yourself that only you know?
I’m colour blind.
What are your key pieces of kit, for you or your horse?
My Equissage Pulse massage pad, the horses love it and have it on most days. I’m also really lucky to have such good land around my yard; we can work on old turf all year round.
What are you looking forward to seeing at Badminton?
I’ve competed at Badminton nine times in the past ten years so it will be a change to see it from the other side this year – I’ll be there each day, doing a few things for sponsors, a bit of commentary and cheering everyone on! I’m looking forward to seeing someone’s career change forever by winning the biggest event in our sport.
Dick Francis or Jilly Cooper? Dick Francis
Royal Ascot or Cheltenham Festival? Cheltenham Festival
Badminton or Burghley? Badminton – I live a mile away
Sand or Snow? Snow for a holiday; sand to live – I’d be a Bedouin over an Eskimo any day!
Tea or G&T? Neither – Vodka & tonic
Bay or grey? I’m a sucker for greys
Keep up to date with Harry on Twitter @Harry_Meade
Harry Meade is sponsored by:
Photos kindly supplied by: