Monthly musings with Harriet Mitchell Eventing: breaking the stereotypes
The first monthly instalment of 'monthly musings with HME'. This month we talk to Harriet about the common assumptions people make of young riders and what it really takes to make a career in eventing.
Harriet, you must have lots of money to be able to afford to pursue your career in eventing?
I have been extremely lucky to have support from my parents, but it is not as glamorous as you may assume. I have no staff , apart from mum's valued help when she is not busy saving lives as a nurse & occasionally a much appreciated groom position filled by a local friend of the family who we repay in transport to her Pony Club competitions. Our lorry is a converted industrial truck, not a fancy purpose-built vehicle and I am lucky enough to secure rides on my ability and attitude.
Both myself and my parents see their support as an investment, that I will one day repay and I am grateful. I also teach to pay for the associated costs around eventing and horses in general.
How do you manage to fit in teaching your clients with training for big competitions, when training to that level requires the time of a full time job?
I love teaching! it is a fun way to make a living, I really put my all into it and I want my clients to ride and perform well, just as much as they do. It is tricky fitting teaching in sometimes during busy weeks or during the build up to a big competition, but sacrificing my evenings is much easier when I can see visible progress in the client and their horse, coming away with a smile on their faces- and mine.
You've recently moved, how important do you think it is to be around knowledgeable and like-minded people when training and planning for the future?
It has definitely made a huge difference to me as a person as well as my riding. For a long time I've been working on my own in Cornwall and it can get very lonely doing it on your own 24/7, even with mum's kind help fitted in around her own career and life I would sometimes struggle. Since moving I've seen a dramatic change and it has definitely done me the world of good.
I suggest to all those out there who are considering moving- definitely do go to a bigger yard with lots of different horses and people to develop with, which ever point in your career you are at. It will be an invaluable experience.
So, it is all rosettes and prize money- right?
Gosh eventing is so unbelievably up and down! one weekend I am winning on my top horse and the next I don't even make it to the XC phase.
When it does go well, it is the greatest feeling in the world and that is what makes you want to carry on and not give it all up and work in Tesco where things are more predictable! I often think to myself "I'm not giving up, my time will come" which helps me focus on my next move, not my last. But yes, it is always nice when you get more than a rosette...
I've learned (and still learning) how to deal with the disappointments, which everybody does differently. You just have to remember that it will not be terrible forever, and try to think about the bigger picture and what did go well, and what we learned from the mistakes.
You've had it all handed to you on a plate, right?
Wrong. I have been very fortunate to have supportive parents, but the hard work is all mine. I am sponsored by New Equine Wear which has been a huge boost to my career, upon announcing this lots of other companies have been attracted to my progress, seeking a young rider to support. Once you gain the belief of one credible company, others seem to follow their lead which is very flattering.
I spend a lot of time talking to owners & clients and this is a very big and important part of my career, our arrangement needs to work for the both of us and I invest a lot of my time making sure that this happens. It is not all super-serious business, we have a cuppa and a chat which is always nice, to catch up. It is very important not to be perceived as unapproachable or "stuck-up" as you move up the ranks, even unintentionally. Always take the time to talk to people who have taken the time to talk to you. Being humble is good for everybody.
Social media is very important these days especially for young riders like myself who are trying to get themselves noticed by owners and sponsors. I hate talking about myself, but I know it will be beneficial in the long run. I advise any competitive rider to set up a social media account for themselves, they're free and only take a small amount of your time up but it could be what gets you your next big break!
Any money saving tips for us H?
Plan in advance, this always seems to turn out slightly better off for me money-wise.
When buying your kit, make sure protection is your main priority and not saving a few pounds, as a tendon injury will cost you far more in time off and vets bills and also, with cheaper brands you often have to replace them sooner. I have used NEW boots for years before I gained sponsorship from them, and they last me season after season and I like that they are made in the UK and that the quality can be closely controlled.
Budget! no, you might not be able to go out on that 5th night out this month after all...
Meal prep, far cheaper (and healthier) than eating out while away at competitions. Mum is normally on hand for the food side of preparation...
Don't be a sheep. Don't buy the latest fads just because everybody else is, if your kit is protective and smart there is no need to buy new things, unless you have the income and desire to do so.
Where can we follow your progress?
On Facebook: @HarrietMitchellEventing
On Instagram: @harrietmitchell_