Paul Tapner is hard to pin down. He has spent the past few months living in his Empire lorry going from event to event, with only a few nights back home with his family. Taperz, as he is known, is an Australian Eventing team member and previous winner of Badminton Horse Trials. He is renowned as one of the very best cross country riders in the world and was the pathfinder at Badminton this year.
As well as eventing his string of 8 Advanced horses, Paul is massively respected within the sport as he bridges the gap between old eventing and new eventing and regularly mentors many riders. He works tirelessly to promote the sport through his position as Vice President of the Eventing Riders Association, the united voice of Eventing Riders around the World and if that wasn’t enough he is also co-founder of HorseHub, the inspiring app that has probably the finest collection of world class training material available anywhere.
We caught up with Paul ahead of Bramham, the Yorkshire event that he won in 2000 on High Point and which secured his place on the eventing scene
How has the season been so far?
I have got the strongest string of horses at the top level that I have ever had. They are all on really good form and so far, generally speaking, we have had a really good season.
Do you have a favourite event?
I like the events that look after the spectators, sponsors, owners and riders and for me that would be Boekelo in the Netherlands and Aachen in Germany.
With Rio 2016 around the corner, do you think the riders’ have got a different outlook?
No, for riders at the top level there is always a championship year to work towards and as riders at this level we are always looking at our 5 or 7 year plan and what the bigger picture is. I hope to have to 7 horses qualified for the Rio Games at the end of this season and I am trying to convince our National Federation that selections should be made this year when it isn’t all rushed in the lead up to the Games.
Bramham was a big win for you in 2000 – what did it mean for you? And who will you be riding this year?
It was pretty amazing, and I, like many, certainly didn’t think I was the only person who believed it would happen. It was very important for me in terms of justifying coming to this country and it definitely kick started my career and put me on the map over here. Bramham is always special to me because of that. This week I will be riding Prince Mayo and Vanir Kamira in the CCI and Yogi Bear VIII in the CIC who all went well at Chatsworth.
What or who inspires you within the equestrian world? Past and/or present.
Riders like Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd who have stayed at the top for so many years and have been able to adapt their riding and skill sets to still be competitive on the modern circuit. Eventing now is vastly different from 20+ years ago – the sport has evolved significantly and for them to be still competitive is an inspiration.
Plus the sheer quantity of top level wins from William Fox-Pitt and Michael Jung is very impressive. I guess my fellow competitors who beat me inspire me to try and beat them!
Do you have a favourite equestrian possession?
Ruby the Empire lorry. I spend more time in it than at home when competing 4 days a week.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I’m not old enough yet for a legacy but I suppose I would like to be someone who made a difference to the sport.
I am very much a technologist – the Horsehub app came about after I saw what was going on in the music industry. After winning Badminton in 2010 I wanted to put together a training series, but didn’t want to produce a DVD. I knew downloads were the way forward having seen the advances with movies and music. At the time there wasn’t the platform there to facilitate the “with Taperz” Training Series so the app came about as a by-product to get the training series into a downloadable format.
Technology has to play a part in the future of the sport in order for it to be more financially viable. The media needs the technology – you only have to look at how other sports are using it such as the NFU motor sports and the America’s Cup. We need to get our act together and embrace it – the technology is already there and available. But it is a chicken and egg situation – we need the money there to make it happen and to begin with there wouldn’t be much return. Someone has to take the risk and everyone will follow. The sport will become more media and spectator friendly and more non-equestrian sponsors would come on board, which can only benefit the sport. At the moment, only the people who are involved in the sport know how amazing it is and there is a huge untapped audience out there with enormous potential for the sport.
Do you have an equestrian hero?
My wife laughs about when she came back to my home for the first time and saw I had a poster of Matt Ryan in my room so I would say Matt Ryan was my pin up !
What is the quality that you most like in a horse?
Speed and bravery for cross country. It is my favourite of the 3 disciplines.
If you hadn’t been a 3-day eventer, what would you have done?
I have a Degree in Agricultural Science so I would probably have been a farmer or scientist or continued to run the 2 businesses I set up to support my eventing habit when I was younger, which was a rural fencing contractor for rural security and portable stabling supplier.
What would be your message to the equestrian world at a time of huge progression for the sport?
If I was to get on my soapbox, there are three things:
Firstly the safety aspect of our sport. Everybody has to take more responsibility for the sport and realise how dangerous it is. In my opinion, personal protection equipment is sub standard in our sport.
I have discussed this with many medical experts who laugh at what we wear when we go cross country. At the moment, it is all market driven. Whilst we have seen an increase in crash helmets being worn for dressage and showjumping, they have become fashion statements and that has been led by the marketing. I would like to see more people wearing crash helmets, the people buying them, manufacturing and regulating them, and people choosing them because they are more effective rather than the market making blinged up hats. The same goes for body protectors and air jackets.
The second aspect relates to the financial viability of our sport. Everyone needs to take responsibility: riders need to actively promote themselves as celebrities, like in other sports, and the administrations need to support our riders and the sport better. This can only help the media side of the sport and help it to come out of the dark ages. We have seen a change in FEI’s production contract change to IMG – the world’s largest independent producer and distributor of sports programming – so we will have to wait and see if improvements there will happen.
And finally, I would urge all riders to sign up to the Eventing Riders Association (ERA) to make our voice stronger and help support a positive future for the sport. It is a simple online form and we need email addresses. Data protection laws means membership details from associations cannot be shared and due to the restructuring of the website association, we need everyone to sign up. All it costs is your time.
I’m addicted to Candy Crush
What would be your perfect weekend?
Driving to a competition with 5 horses entered in 5 different classes and winning all 5. Brook Staples achieved this when I was his working pupil and I have yet to emulate him.
What are your top indispensable pieces of kit, for you or your horse?
And for Georgina, our Fowler UK industrial washing machine
Against The Clock…
Dick Francis or Jilly Cooper? Dick Francis
Royal Ascot or Cheltenham Festival? Ascot
Badminton or Burghley? Badminton
Sand or Snow? Snow
Tea or G&T? Foster’s
Bay or grey? Grey
We are very grateful to Paul for chatting to us and we wish him a successful week at Bramham. Huge thanks must also go to Paul for providing the wifi we all enjoy at many of the events.
Thank you to Nico Morgan and Michael David Rogers for the photos
Follow Paul on Twitter
Bramham International Horse Trials Ticket Information