William Fox-Pitt is the only rider to have won five of the world’s toughest four-star events – and there are only six! He was also the first British rider ever to become the world eventing number one, making him a total legend!
He’s managed all this, along with going to 10 European Championships and four Olympic Games, winning a total of 14 medals – top marks for effort!
Who was your first pony and what was he like?
Minnie Monster was a 12.2hh grey and an absolute saint! He gave me lots of confidence and helped me learn to love hunting – believe it or not, I wasn’t always so keen on jumping!
When did you know you wanted to be a pro event rider?
Well, I never really made the decision, it just happened! I got a good sponsorship deal while I was riding a horse called Chaka, so I thought I’d try to make a career of it. I’d never earned any money before so it was all a bit of a surprise!
If I hadn’t become an eventer, I think I’d probably still work with horses, but maybe in racing or breeding.
Did you know? William first rode around Badminton when he was just 20 years old!
Who were your top horsey idols growing up?
Definitely Lucinda Green and Richard Meade (Harry Meade’s dad) – he was the first male eventer I remember to be consistently successful.
How can you tell if a horse is going to be a top eventer?
You always have to dream a bit, because sometimes it’s not the ones you might expect. But a good brain is really important and they need to be athletic, too.
Where’s your favourite place to compete?
Burghley, 100%! It’s a place filled with really fond memories and big moments in my career. Winning at Burghley for the first time at just 25 was a life-changing occasion. It made me think that, even if I gave up the next day, I’d really achieved something and if I never won again it didn’t really matter.
Did you know? William has won Burghley a record six times!
How do you deal with failure and setbacks?
You have to understand that setbacks are a normal part of having horses and riding. Working with them means accepting that you’re going to have hard moments. It’s important to put it into perspective and think if that’s the worst that’s going to happen, then I’m fine.
Who’s your most memorable horse?
As an eventer, you spend a lot of time with your horses and develop really strong bonds. I’ve had lots of horses to ride throughout my career and I’ve been really lucky.
Tamarillo, who won Badminton in 2004, and went to the Olympics, World Equestrian Games and the Europeans, was exceptional. He was probably the most talented but he was quirky, too, and I learnt a lot from him.
Chilli Morning was always so consistent in competition and has the ultimate character – he never got stressed or nervous and was a real worker. We were the highest placed pairing for Team GB at Rio 2016.
Moon Man, who I evented from 1997–2008, shouldn’t have been much more than a good hunter. But together we won the British Open because he gave so much.
What advice would you give to an aspiring pro rider?
It’s so important to get out there and ride as many different ponies as you can – they all teach you something new. Also, never let yourself be frightened of failure because you learn so much from that, too.
Tell PONY something we don’t know about you…
I’m currently hatching a rea, which is a bit like an emu. My boys found the egg on eBay and it’s in our incubator. I’m not quite sure I want it to hatch, though, because I don’t know what we’ll do with it!