ON THE HOOF: WITH DEBORAH SMITH

Dressage rider Melissa Chapman runs a yard near Richmond. She’s on the up following a tricky 2017, which saw Melissa having to prematurely retire her grand prix horse, Norman, (DHI Work of Art) and then badly breaking her ankle in September.
ON THE HOOF: WITH DEBORAH SMITH

More than a year on, things are brighter and busy and Melissa’s focus is back on producing her young horses up through the levels.

Melissa trains with the highly respected Ian Woodhead (DHI event horses) and is busy working with a string of high-quality young horses. Melissa usually buys them at three or four years of age, direct from producers in Holland. She goes on buying visits, often with Ian, and they drive around for a few days looking at ‘loads’ and making her decisions based on conformation, temperament and movement.

Prices have increased steeply in the past five to seven years and a horse you might have paid £15k for five years ago would now be nearer £40k. It’s a big numbers game so I was interested to find out what makes Melissa and Team Chapman Equestrian tick?

Describe the Melissa Chapman brand >>

I’d say driven, empathetic, horse-first, conscientious. We celebrate at all levels and I’m so proud when horses I’ve had even a small role in production with, go out and do well.

How did you get into doing this? >>

Through my auntie who had two ponies, and my mum and dad also rode. I had my first pony when I was seven, and it went from there. I’d always wanted to ’do’ horses as a career. I’ve been here for ten years; it was my dad’s farm and my mum and dad set me up with 12 stables and an arena and then handed it to me to get on with it. It’s been hard work and always plenty of ups and downs. It was a huge ffort getting back to fitness after breaking my ankle last year, but I have a great team here who kept everything going and my owners and sponsors were brilliant and supportive.

Your biggest influence >>

Ian Woodhead (DHI event horses).

On the business side has to be Ian. I’ve worked with him for 12 years and we source and produce young horses together. He’s taught me so much and is always there as a friend, together with his wife Heidi, for help and advice – we have lots of fun when we go to Holland on a road trip looking at young horses.

And as a rider >>

It has to be Carl Hester. He has done so much for the sport and is so generous, giving other people great opportunities to ride top horses.

Any horse you’d like to add to your yard? >>

The young hanoverian stallion, Revolution, (who with a winning bid of EURO 1.2 million, broke the record for all German stallion auctions at the Hanoverian licensing in Verden in the autumn of 2015). We already have a filly foal by him in the yard and another one on the way. His movement and expression are amazing.

Recent successes >>

Coming back from injury for me was the big one and then I had a good summer with three horses going to the regionals and a couple through to the nationals. Getting back in the saddle and seeing the successes after my accident has meant a lot to me.

Goals for 2019 >>

To get more horses to national and to get Fergie PSG ready, then on to premier league.Your favourite horse(s)? >>

Norman my retired Grand Prix horse, we learnt so much together.

Fergie who is six. He is so talented. I bought him as an unbroken three-year-old from Holland. I saw him in a field of 20 horses and he really stood out, even then.

Romeo who is a four-year-old stallion is also so talented and so straightforward and balanced already. He has an incredible temperament; it’s hard to remember he is still only four sometimes!

Favourite venue >>

It has to be Somerford Park. Amazing facilities, so friendly, I love it!

What do you do to relax? >>

I like to hang out with friends I’ve known for years, since I was eight – just the usual stuff, eating food, going to the cinema.

Favourite LUXE treat >>

I would love a holiday in the Maldives!

Tip for any young rider just starting out >>

Your reputation is everything so think manners, hard work, listening and watching.

Sponsors >>

Devoucoux, Silver foot, The horse bit bank, Baileys, Equine products, Milbry Hill, Equissage, Master/Harry Hall, CK Equine

The Equine veterinary dentist.


Images by Simon Hogben Photography: simonhogben.com

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