Ben Hobday is a busy man and wears many hats all for the benefit of our further enjoyment of eventing. As the season draws to a close, we re-publish his fascinating interview. He is responsible for the social media success of #EliteEventing, which he set up to give supporters a unique insight into what goes on behind the scenes at three day events, and includes Eventing Cribs.
He is also king of the most stylish trot ups and is the go to man for who and what to know. Riding at Burghley in the CCI 4* for the 3rd time but the first for Mr. Mulry, Sally Ryle’s half Clydesdale, half thoroughbred bay gelding who has his own cult following , as well as riding Shadowman, owned by Jane Chambers, in this year’s Burghley Young Event Horse final, which Ben won in 2010 on Shadowboxer, Ben talks to The Gaitpost about the season so far.
Hobday, 26, began his eventing career twenty years ago and was a working pupil for Hannah Bate before seizing the chance to work for William Funnell. He has also gained invaluable knowledge from his wife Pippa Funnell – herself a three-time Olympic medallist. Ben has jumped double clear rounds in some of the biggest events in the world including Badminton and the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
Why did you set up #EliteEventing?
I set it up with my business partner and friend, Nathan Connolly, a freestyle ski competitor, to try and make the general public more aware of what we eventers do, and that it is a high adrenalin, action, dangerous and extreme sport. Contrary to what many think, we are not poncing around in jodphurs !
It takes a lot of courage, guts and training to do what we do and it would be great to see other big extreme sports brands like nike and Red Bull taking on the challenges of eventing. We all know it is the only sport that you have to have your medical armband strapped to your arm! Is someone somewhere restricting the involvement of brands who support extreme sports? In eventing, we are so restricted by sponsorship badges, for example, on our clothes and gear, and the officials need to loosen their reins a bit and attract more money into the sport when most of the professional event riders are on less than minimum wage.
The riders are definitely not getting a fair deal. Proper sponsorship has to play a part in this and give us value for all our hard work. This would boost the riders as well as the owners who would then have more money to put back into the sport.
I have got so many ideas and am happy to have some input if anyone at the top is interested.
Who would you most like to get on Eventing Cribs?
Zara Phillips! I bet MTV couldn’t even get in to her crib and if we could, people could see that a Royal is cool.
How have your preparations for Burghley been going?
They have been going really well, thank you. With Mulry’s breeding and stamp we have had to get him to his fittest. He finds some things difficult, mainly dressage but with the better facilities here at Somerford Park as well as more regular cross country, he’s as fit as a fiddle and hopefully as prepared as we need him to be.
Tell us about Mr Mulry
Sally & her daughter Vanessa used to come for lessons, Sally on Mulry and Vanessa on Chief. Mulry always had a fab jump but Sally wouldn’t let me sit on him! Sally trained really hard and aimed for Tattersalls 1* but she changed her mind a few days before and let me ride him. So with 2 days to get to know each other, we went straight to Tats and he jumped an amazing double clear. He has a strange way of getting people to warm to him as people often judge him on his appearance but once they see him in action he wins everyone over.
He went really well at Somerford Park Intermediate a few weeks ago. We have had a few hiccups…left handed angles xc fences but horses aren’t machines and have their own mind. He used to be a bit cheeky but we think we have nipped that in the bud.
He looks like a big 4×4 but has an engine like a Ferrari.
How has your season gone so far?
I’ve cut down on numbers this year and concentrated on a smaller string, which has all gone to plan.
Chinook won the Eventers Grand Prix at Boleworth Castle. He’s only 7 but finished 9th and 4th in first two 2*s.
Shadowboxer is now 2*. He ran at Blair and came second at Somerford Intermediate and is on form.
Grubs Ramilo, 9, went to the CCI 3* at Bramham and will potentially be 4* at the end of this year.
And I have a lovely mare called It’s Just Jazz, she’s 10 and we are looking for people to join her syndicate as she is a very exciting prospect. Last year she was Pre-Novice and already she’s 3* and competed at six Internationals this year: 5 double clears at 2* and 2 doubles at 3*.
All in all it’s been a fantastic season with more to come.
What or who inspires you within the equestrian world? Past and present
I admire people who choose to shine even after all the tough times they have been through. I think at the minute, with what has happened recently, I have to say Harry Meade. He is such a talented jockey and a really decent person. What he has gone through has certainly inspired me to keep going when things get tough. Badminton was incredible and he deserves things to go right for him.
Do you have a favourite equestrian possession?
#EliteEventing skins of course! You can buy them online now at seriouslyequestrian.com in loads of colours and you can choose your own hashtag
Is there an all time favourite yard/stables that you’ve been too? And why?
I trained at William Fox-Pitt’s for a few weeks and his yard is incredible. The Burghley stables, although temporary, are really smart and it is a really relaxed atmosphere. The people who run it do a fantastic job and it means we can concentrate on the job in hand.
Which country in your opinion does equestrian best? And why?
The Germans are maybe beating us in the Championships but Great Britain as a whole is the best…we have the best events and the best riders and we need to pull together and raise the profile of our sport.
What would you like your legacy to be?
If I can make a change so that people in the future can earn a proper wage and be treated as proper sportsman, like in other sports, that would be great. Why do footballers get £100k a week? This has to change for the future of our sport.
Do you have an equestrian hero?
Pippa Funnell…I adore her. Her dedication is incredible and what she has achieved is phenomenal. She is amazing because although she suffers from nerves, which she has freely admitted in her book, what she has achieved whilst battling nerves is both incredible and admirable.
What is the quality that you most like in a horse?
They have got to want to work for you…they have to want to try for you and go the extra mile. That they are on your side and keep trying.
If you weren’t an eventer, what would you be doing?
I love to watch Formula One so I would probably be racing cars
What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given? Who gave it to you?
I can’t remember who said this to me but it was not to let anyone tell you that can’t do something
Tell us something about yourself that only you know?
My life is on Snapchat so there are no secrets !
What would be your message to the equestrian world?
Keep raising the game
Do you have a secret superstition before an event?
No. I believe in making things happen for yourself but I do try to keep a postivie frame of mind. I think of the good in a situation and surround myself with positive people
What are your top 5 indispensable pieces of kit, for you or your horse?
Spaldings Saddles – definitely the best in the world
Baileys Horse Feeds keep everyone looking and feeling great
Maxivita – for supplements
USG for my air jacket: the quickest safest body protector and air jacket in one that is on the market
My grey Uvex hat for show jumping as it is really smart
Against The Clock…
Dick Francis or Jilly Cooper?
Jilly Cooper only because Sally Ryle, Mulry’s owner, went for dinner with her last week!
Royal Ascot or Cheltenham Festival?
Royal Ascot because I had the best day there this year as I was invited by Lucinda and Lissa Green. Get well soon Lissa! #progreen
Bling or no Bling?
Got to have a bit of bling
Sand or Snow?
Tea or G&T?
Bay or grey?
Check out the link to watch Mary & Emily King’s crib on #EliteEventing!
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If you are new to The Gaitpost, hello and welcome ! We have plenty more interviews to read as well as reviews and guest blogs. Enjoy!
We wish Ben, Mr Mulry, Shadowman and all the riders competing at the 2014 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials all the best for a safe competition.
Check out www.burghley.tv for free video on demand of the competition as well as a preview film of the cross-country course and loads more photos and stats.