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Looking back at 2021 – with Harry Charles: “I feel like I came back from Tokyo as a stronger person and a better rider”

Saturday, 25 December 2021

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
“I think this has to be my best year yet,” Harry Charles says about 2021. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping




In 2021, Harry Charles did his Olympic debut with the British team in Tokyo and finished off the year with a bang – winning the Coupe de Genève at CHI Geneva as well as the Champagne-Taittinger Ivy Stakes, the Longines FEI World Cup and the Grand Prix of London at London International Horse Show. Here, the 22-year-old British rider looks back at 2021 – which was full of highlights.

“I think this has to be my best year yet,” Harry begins. “I have been so lucky this year: To meet the people I have met, to build the team of horses I have, to have the people that I have got around me, to do my first senior championship at the Olympic Games, to go there inexperienced and come back stronger. I feel like my horses have been coming together really nicely this year. After the Olympics, it has been going really well, at every big show we have made results. I am so proud of my team, as we work so hard. I started 2021 being around 180 on the world ranking and I finish in the top 50, so for me it has been a dream year and I cannot wait for what is in store for the next.”


I am so proud of my team, as we work so hard


For Harry, going to the Olympic Games was the highlight of the year. “Back in 2014, I said to my dad that my dream would be to go to the 2020 Olympics. And he said, ‘son, we are going to try’. However, if you would have asked me 18 months ago if it would be possible to go to the Olympics, I would have said no. However, this time last year, I met an amazing woman, Ann Thompson; we created a partnership, and she gave me the ride on her horse Romeo. As soon as I started riding him, I knew there was a possibility. The whole journey has been incredible. My father puts so much effort into it, he stopped his own career early to help me and my two sisters. I know that to Ann, my family, and my team, just getting to Tokyo meant everything. There was so much emotion, it was incredible, and I will never forget it.”

“It was of course different due to the Covid-pandemic, but for me it was invaluable, I learned so much, both on and off the horse,” Harry reflects on his Olympic debut. “I got to really enjoy every emotion, the really high and the really low. Being around Ben, as my teammate, and his team, when they won the individual gold, was special and a great experience. I feel like I came back from Tokyo as a stronger person and a better rider.”


I got to really enjoy every emotion, the really high and the really low


"It was the most special weekend," Harry says about closing off the year at the London International Horse Show in the very best way possible. "To do that at home, at this show, especially in a year where Covid has been a bit unfortunate again, was incredible. This was really a dream end to a special year. It was my first World Cup win and also my first five-star Grand Prix win, all within 24 hours. That was my goal for the year, actually, to win a five-star Grand Prix, but I didn't think it would be possible. For Stardust and Borsato, these wins were also their biggest so far. Stardust has a really big future in the sport; until now she has been my second horse behind Romeo – next year I think she is going to do some really special things. Borsato is fifteen now and has never been better. I had never won a class with him until two weeks ago, and now he has won three big classes in a row. They are two great horses!" 

“It is going to be hard to do repeat this year, but I am confident that I still have a lot more to improve,” Harry continues. “I am really excited for 2022: I have some exciting new horses coming through, they have been a bit inexperienced, but next year they will be ready.” 


This was really a dream end to a special year


“My goal for next year is the World Championships,” Harry says about 2022. “It Is also interesting to see more shows enter into partnerships with Rolex; they do the best shows in the world. I hope I can do most of the Rolex shows, and hopefully a few Nations Cup events as well. I think the FEI really needs to step up their game for the Nations Cup series though... I did a few of those shows this year and I must say it was a real privilege as I love to represent my country. We can’t keep losing all these events; there are only six legs left in Europe Division 1, without Belgium and Germany even hosting one of them anymore.”

Harry will be spending Christmas at home with his family. “Just the five of us,” he smiles. “We have no plans to go anywhere, we will just be at home and take a few weeks off before we start again in January.”


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