life as a british olympic event rider

Meet British Olympic Event Rider Gemma Tattersall

A few months ago, we spoke to British Olympic Event Rider and Brooke Ambassador, Gemma Tattersall. Having started riding at the age of 18 months (as her mother had a riding school), she proved to be a natural, and by the time Gemma was 8, she had won the riding club junior (U17) dressage championship and her first one-day event! Her career has gone from strength to strength and Gemma’s name can often be found on the Badminton start list. She represented Team GB at the Rio Olympics in 2016 with the tenacious grey mare Quicklook V. During the winter months, Gemma can often be found on the local Show Jumping circuit as well as in Portugal on the Sunshine Tour. As an official ambassador for Brooke, Gemma helps promote the work the charity does wherever possible.

Brooke has been a Harry Hall charity partner for 2021 and first up, we were keen to find out how Gemma works with the charity.

5-minute read

Tell us about the work you do with Brooke?

I like to see horses, donkeys and ponies looked after no matter what they do in the world. They deserve good treatment and it’s amazing what Brooke does in educating people to help them look after working horses, donkeys and ponies. If I can help to raise money to ensure their work can be carried out, that’s a bonus. I’ve enjoyed being involved in My Hackathon over the years and I love helping wherever I can. 

working with an equestrian charity

How many horses do you ride on an average day at home?

When all the horses are in work, it’s between 6 – 10 horses a day. It quietens down over the winter when some of the horses are having a break in the field.

And what about riding fitness, do you do anything out of the saddle?

In January and February, I will really pick up my fitness ahead of the season. I enjoy gym work, cycling and swimming. I hit the gym hard last winter during lockdown and the difference at the start of the season this year was noticeable, I felt really strong at spring events. Once the event season starts in March, time for extra fitness is limited but I’ve noticed I carry my fitness well. Stretching has become a key part of my routine and I’ll stretch out three/four times a week to keep limber. I try to do it in the lorry at events too as I’ve found that has really helped me.  

Are you a healthy eater?

I try to be yes! It’s often porridge for breakfast, a wrap and fruit for lunch then for dinner Gary and I do Hello Fresh meals. I enjoy the odd coffee throughout the day and would be partial to having a chocolate digestive biscuit with it.

Talking of Gary, congratulations on your recent engagement! How did you meet and is he horsey?

Thank you! We met at a local showjumping show and hit it off straight away – we have the best banter together. He does ride and is amazing with the horses. He helps a lot with the younger horses, or a stronger horse. He’s a really good horseman and has a good eye but isn’t interested in competing anymore which works well for me! 

working with an equestrian charity

What is your dream horse to ride?

Eventing it would be Andrew Hoy’s Vassily de Lassos and show jumping wise it’s hard to look past Ben Mayer’s Explosion. 

Who would be at your dream dinner party?

The cast from Friends (my favourite TV programme), Pippa and William Funnell (who are hilarious) plus I would have to have David Attenborough there – how amazing would that be!

Favourite thing about eventing?

The sense of achievement at the end of a three-day event is amazing. It’s not even about the winning, if you’ve completed and achieved something with your horse it’s fantastic feeling. Of course, where we compete is incredible too – Badminton, Blenheim, Burghley – they’re just stunning locations. And I must mention the eventing family. It’s so supportive, and I’ve felt really humbled following my Bicton win by all the messages, people seem genuinely pleased for me which is lovely.

Least favourite thing about eventing?

The injuries. It’s gutting having injured horses, I wish I had a magic wand to make them better sometimes.

Let’s talk nerves, how do you handle your nerves at competitions?

Nerves are a massive part of being a competitor and I do get very nervous. Before I went cross country at Bicton I was physically sick, I felt so terrible and wondered why I was doing it. But then you go round, have the most amazing round and it’s all worth it. I’ve become quite good at changing my nerves to work for me and they now help me ride positively. They turn into focus, determination and getting the job done. It’s something I’ve worked hard at, it’s definitely a mind-over-matter thing.

working with an equestrian charity

How do you find riding so many different shapes and sizes of horses? For example, going from a rangey horse like Arctic Soul to a smaller type Like Quicklook V?

Knowing the horse inside out helps, it’s like going from one pair of comfy shoes to anotherWhen I was young, my mum used to put me on anything! And I mean anything, ponies of all shapes and sizes. That’s helped me now for sure 

Tell us about your dogs!

I have two Jack Russells, Twizzle and Elsa and of course they sleep on the bed at home and in the lorry!

You produce a lot of young horses, some you’ve had from foals, your 5* winner Chilli Knight for example, you were there on the day he was born. Does it give you an advantage having a long-term relationship with them?

I think it can give you advantage but you can also develop superb partnerships with horses you haven’t had from a young age. My relationship with Chilli Knight is amazing though. We know each other inside out; he knows what I want him to do, and I know what he’s going to do at every fence. It feels like we’re one mind when we go cross country.

Arctic Soul, one of your 5* rides, is 18 this year and still competing, how do you keep your horses so fit and well for so long?

Having a really good routine, leaving no stone unturned, doing proper old-fashioned fitness work and keeping them limber with fun pole exercises, it’s like Pilates for horses, this keeps them interested and happy 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Pippa Funnell once told me if a horse is playing up, stay completely calm and try to keep your heart rate steady. Staying calm means the horse will come back to you quicker and you’ll be able to produce the work you want.

And finally, what scares you?

Wasps!  I’m petrified of them, nothing else, just wasps.

How Brooke have made an impact to equines in 2021:

So far this year, Brooke have: 
 
Provided emergency feed for 4,058 equines and provided 210 first aid kits as part of ongoing relief efforts in India 

Opened a new Farrier School in Senegal, the first outside Europe and North America, which is currently training 60 new farriers 

Launched a Compassionate Handling pilot project in Nicaragua, teaching 35 community members handling techniques for foals 

Petitioned World Leaders, and Eastern African Authorities to ban the Donkey Skin trade and launched a petition calling on Amazon to stop selling Donkey skin products 

Over the last year in total, we helped over 1.5 million working horses, donkeys, and mules in almost 12,000 communities around the world. 

working with an equestrian charity

Shop, join or insure with us and we will donate

When you join the Harry Hall One Club, take out insurance, go shopping, either online or on the Harry Hall Riding App, we’ll donate to our charity partners every time. 

Our charity partners for 2021 are RDA, The Horse Trust and Brooke. Find out more about how much we donated in 2021

A huge thank you to William Carey Photography for the photos of Gemma Tattersall.