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Harry Charles and Jack Whitaker – on friendship, family and reversed roles

Wednesday, 27 April 2022
Interview

Photo © Royal Windsor Horse Show/Peter Nixon. “We have been competing together since we rode ponies,” Jack Whitaker tells about his friendship with Harry Charles. Photo © Royal Windsor Horse Show/Peter Nixon.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Harry Charles (22) and Jack Whitaker (21) grew up playing together at horse shows all over the world while their fathers – the British Olympians Peter Charles and Michael Whitaker – competed. To World of Showjumping, Harry and Jack speak about their unique friendship, how the roles within their families have started to reverse and how the Royal Windsor Horse Show is one of their main goals for the 2022-season.

From ponies to seniors

Photo © Royal Windsor Horse Show/Peter Nixon. "Seeing the other do well pushes you more; you don’t want to get left behind, it gives you more motivation to keep trying and keep pushing," Jack Whitaker says. Photo © Royal Windsor Horse Show/Peter Nixon.

“We have been competing together since we rode ponies,” Jack tells about his friendship with Harry. “It is nice to have someone that you know so well with you at these shows. Seeing the other do well pushes you more; you don’t want to get left behind, it gives you more motivation to keep trying and keep pushing.”

“It is so cool to be doing this with Jack,” Harry agrees. “We have been best mates since we were kids and followed our dads around the shows. Now, it is the other way around: Our fathers watched us in Leipzig at the World Cup Finals, where I finished 4th and Jack 5th – the roles have reversed a bit. We have grown into this sport. We used to watch it and say how cool it would be to be going to the big shows together some day – and now we are doing just that. It is a tough sport, and if it is not going your way, it is easy to feel alone. Having a really good friend and someone who always has your back – like Jack – when you have a bad day, is nice.”

“I am not going to let him win though,” Jack laughs about the healthy rivalry between the two. “We are both in there trying to win and when we are in the ring, he is just another rider. It is the same with my family; you want to beat them but at the same time, if it is not you winning, you want it to be them. It is a great relationship.”

All about family

Photo © Royal Windsor Horse Show/Peter Nixon. Both Jack and Harry say the support from their families has been a massive advantage to their careers. Photo © Royal Windsor Horse Show/Peter Nixon.

Both Jack and Harry say the support from their families has been a massive advantage to their careers. “There is no way I would be where I am today without the support I get from my father, my mother and the rest of my family,” Jack says. “It is very, very difficult to find top horses for the big shows, so we have to try and produce them ourselves. It takes a bit longer, but it is the cheapest and probably also the best way to do it. We have a lot of young horses and we also breed. I have my father at home, riding them – he is probably the best producer you can find. I am very lucky to have that support behind me. Between me and my father, we work very well together and it is a great partnership.”

“My mum maybe does not get mentioned as much as my dad, but she is just as important,” Harry says about his family, where also his younger sisters Scarlett and Sienna are competing. “Hopefully in the next few years, Scarlett and Sienna can step up a level. They are already getting some impressive results and riding really well, maybe we will be on more shows together in the future. That is definitely the goal for my father: To have all of us riding on a high level week in and week out.”

Royal Windsor Horse Show

Photo © Royal Windsor Horse Show/Peter Nixon. “It is an unbelievable special show for me, it is in the UK, in the Queen’s back yard, it is prestigious,” Jack says about the Royal Windsor Horse Show. Photo © Royal Windsor Horse Show/Peter Nixon.

This May, the Royal Windsor Horse Show is a big goal for both Jack and Harry. “It is an unbelievable special show for me, it is in the UK, in the Queen’s back yard, it is prestigious,” Jack says. “I have always been there with my father. Luckily, last year, I got to compete there myself for the first time. Hopefully this time around, we can go and win.”

“I have so many memories from Windsor, I grew up going there,” Harry fills in. “It is only half an hour away from home, it is the only show of the year where I can come and sleep in my own bed each night. It is probably my favourite show of the year; it is at home, it is a Rolex event… Rolex shows are the best, you can’t beat the big green and yellow combination on a Sunday and the sense of occasion you have.”

“The biggest class I ever won was at the Rolex show in Den Bosch one year ago,” Jack continues. “I have been lucky enough to compete at a few of their events, they are fantastic shows and have given me a great leg up into the sport through the Young Riders Academy. I could not thank Rolex enough for what they do for the sport and for me personally.”

“For the amount of good riders we have here in the UK, I think we don’t have enough top level shows, so this is a really big one for us,” Harry continues to speak about Royal Windsor Horse Show. “It is one of the first shows I write down in the calendar when I plan my year. I plan to jump Aralyn Blue (Chacco-Blue x Ludwig As) in the Grand Prix there, it will probably be her first five-star Grand Prix. I believe she will be ready; I think it will be a great way to introduce her to top level – on home soil in front of a home crowd. She feels really good at the moment and of course we will make a good plan towards the Sunday at Windsor. Aralyn Blue is one of the most exciting horses I have this year. People might not have seen her so much; she has only done a couple of five-star shows. She had a win in St. Tropez and came second in Madrid. This year, I think she is going to step up to the top level.”

A big year ahead

Photo © Royal Windsor Horse Show/Peter Nixon. “It is a big step from young riders jumping those big shows, but you just have to try and take the opportunities when they come your way," Jack Whitaker says. Photo © Royal Windsor Horse Show/Peter Nixon.

“We have some great people and owners with us, that enable us to have some very good horses in the stable,” Harry tells about his string of horses for the 2022-season. “Casquo Blue (Chacco-Blue x Carthago Z) is a really exciting new horse. We did our first big Grand Prix in Den Bosch and only had a time fault. I think he is a horse that is going to feature a lot this year and there is a good chance he can go to the World Championships in Herning if everything goes right. I have another very exciting horse in Billabong du Roumois (Mylord Carthago x Papillon Rouge), that already has a very good record with Julien Epaillard. My plan is to get to know him a little bit. And of course, I have Romeo 88 (Contact van de Heffinck x Orlando) and Stardust (Chacco-Blue x Con Air 7) – they are very proven horses on top level.”

“I would not rule out the World Championships at all,” Jack says about his goals for the year. “I am probably not on the top of the list, but I would like to think I have a chance. I have three horses now in my main string: Equine America Valmy De La Lande (Mylord Carthago x Starter) is my main Grand Prix horse. He is the one I will probably be aiming for Windsor. Then I also have Q Pavarotti N (Quality Time x Indoctro), who is a bit newer for me. My dad rode him before and I have taken the reins over this year. I am trying to do some bigger Grand Prix classes with her. She is still learning, but looks really promising. And then I have a ten-year-old gelding called Equine America Elucar V.e. (Cardento 933 x Lupicor), who is a very handy horse: He is reliable, you have a good chance of winning a class with him.”

Trying to do a few more Nations Cup events and contributing to winning some, as well as winning a five-star Grand Prix are among the goals Jack has set for himself for this season. “That is always the aim: When you get into these shows, you want to win the Grand Prix,” he says. “It is a big step from young riders jumping those big shows, but you just have to try and take the opportunities when they come your way. Once you get to the bigger shows, you try to do your best and if you manage well, you might get a few more opportunities. I have not ridden a five-star Nations Cup yet, but I have been a part of a young rider and three-star teams. Within the UK we have quite a bit of comradery and we are all good friends, so it is always good fun – it is a nice feeling to ride on the team. In general, I think the Nations Cup events are the best; you want to win for your country.”

Olympic dreams

Photo © Royal Windsor Horse Show/Peter Nixon. "Having people you trust and know around you, who want you to win and are as hungry as you, makes your job a lot easier," Harry Charles says. Photo © Royal Windsor Horse Show/Peter Nixon.

“Hopefully win Olympic medals,” Jack says when asked where he would want to see himself and Harry in ten years’ time. “Hopefully on the same podium, at the Olympics or other major championships, that would be a dream,” Harry agrees. “However, getting to the top is one thing – staying there is another.”

Jack’s advice to other young riders aspiring to follow in his and Harry’s footsteps would be to stay patient and take the opportunities when they come – while Harry encourages young riders to simply ride as much as possible. “Take all the chances, ride all the horses – no matter how they are,” Harry explains. “Learn to feel. Get to know each horse, learn what they like and what they don’t like: You can carry that on, it will be with you for the rest of your life, that feeling of what makes a horse go. You can only gain that through experience and riding many horses.”

“And at the end of the day, you have to be patient,” Harry adds. “Patience is a big thing. Especially if you have a young horse, take your time. You have to put your life and soul into this sport; you eat, sleep, breath this sport. Having people you trust and know around you, who want you to win and are as hungry as you, makes your job a lot easier. Being around positive people makes a big difference in your results as well.” 

 

No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping.com

 



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