On The Hoof: With Deborah Smith

William Pittendrigh is one to watch...
William Pittendrigh

Every so often you see a rider who just has that star quality. They stand out, and they turn heads. Effortless elegance is beyond the reach of most of us riders, but recently, at a training clinic with the legendary Olympic medal-winning eventer, Mary King, I had the pleasure of meeting a young rider who has this in spades.

William Pittendrigh (remember that name) is a 21-year-old show rider who specialises in intermediate working hunter ponies and horse workers. He is also a BHS accredited coach based in the North East.

I had seen William’s name around and heard him mentioned; always in glowing terms, so it was a real treat to see him ride, as we were in the same group for a couple of hours.

I caught up with William after the event to find out a bit more about one of the region’s most exciting young riders. Even Mary King was clearly impressed with his riding and his ability to get so much from his gorgeous, immaculate grey horses.

How did you get into horses in the first place?

Both my parents and grandparents rode, so horses are in the blood. My family have only ever shown, which is why I do the workers, but I got into eventing from watching it on television and going to local events.

How many horses do you have and where do you get them from?

I currently have six horses at home, however one is retired and another is unbroken.

I source my horses from pretty much everywhere – whether it be at a show, on the internet or word of mouth. I generally get them between 4 and 6, however I have recently purchased a 3-year-old from Ireland.

When looking at a horse, I like to see plenty of bone, a good length of rein and lovely straight movement. Apart from conformation, I like a horse that is naturally balanced with good, strong paces and willing attitude.

Regarding bloodlines, I do like something with Irish draught. I have two pure Irish draughts and the 3-year-old I mentioned is just over quarter Irish draught.

And how do you produce them?

When I first get a horse, they are generally very green and uneducated, so I spend a lot of time letting them see as much as possible. They all go hunting to learn to go forward as well as learn manners to stand and wait when asked.

They will all generally do a novice season as well in their first year. They’ll do a bit of show jumping, cross country, go to the beach etc. but I must admit they are yet to go to a dressage competition.

Any favourites?

I hate to have a favourite but I would have to say my coloured horse, Constellation (AKA Alf). I’ve owned Alf for nine years since he was 4. I got him when I was 12. We have been through a lot together including a Royal International win after a nearly career ending injury and hunting side-saddle for charity. We’ve got a brilliant friendship.

A horse you’d love to ride?

Although retired, I would absolutely love the chance to ride Valegro, however I am in a very large queue!

And one you’d love to have in your yard?

Any of Robert Walker’s show hunters. They’re all stunning!

You have got an impressive track record already, what have been your highlights so far?

My biggest highlights would have to be being selected to represent England in the International Working Hunter Pony Teams last year, coming away with team and individual silver.

Winning Royal Windsor for a second year in a row was also very special – as well as winning the Royal International.

And for 2020 – an unusual year to say the least – what have you been focusing on?

My focus at the moment is showing. I compete all over the country, from Edinburgh to Brighton. I compete at major shows such as Royal Windsor, Horse of the Year Show, Royal International, Royal Highland, Great Yorkshire and many more. In between,

I try to event as much as I can which I really enjoy. To be very honest, this year has been good. It started with me qualifying for the Royal International first time out in March, then obviously the lockdown came into place. It forced my horses and I to have a much-needed rest and I got lots of jobs done.

Now restrictions have been lifted, I’m very busy teaching and competing for owners with wins nearly every time out.

What’s in the plans for 2021?

My 2021 goals include: winning HOYS – it’s the last show for me to tick off, so that would be amazing. I would also really like to get into eventing more, as that is something I really enjoy.

I’m currently riding a very exciting 5-year-old for an owner which I believe will go far, so hopefully we can grow together. I’d love to compete at the CIC and CCI events one day.

How would you describe the William Pittendrigh brand?

My brand is quite broad spectrum. I am a BHS accredited coach, so I do a lot of teaching, from nervous riders to riders aiming for Royal International and HOYS.

I have started to compete for owners this year and have got some very exciting rides in both eventing and showing.

I offer schooling livery during the summer months when some of the horses are living out (I only have six stables so they’re all full in the winter).

In the future, I would like to build some more stables and offer competition livery.

Finally, how do you keep your grey horses so immaculate?!

I’m very fortunate that my greys aren’t ‘dirty greys’ but I do use Horse Health’s Brite White Shampoo which is brilliant!

It’s really important to wash the stain off as soon as you see it.

Top riders and role models?

I really admire Tina Cook, Pippa Funnel and Mary King. They are all phenomenal riders and their horses go to perfection. They’ve worked incredibly hard to get where they are and I would love the opportunity to work with them.

Favourite venues?

I love the Royal Highland Show and Great Yorkshire Show. I love going to look at the different animals and breeds as well as all of the artisan stalls.

What does downtime mean to you?

I very rarely have time to sleep, never mind relax, but I do like to go to the gym and I always sing along to music whether I’m in the yard or driving in my car.

Your luxe things in life?

My favourite luxury item would have to be my Maudsley horsebox. I couldn’t be without it.

William generally teaches from Northumberland to North Yorkshire, but is happy to travel. Facebook: William Pittendrigh Equestrian or email [email protected].

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