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The Next Generation: Joe Stockdale – “As a team we aim to combine innovation with hard work and dedication"

Wednesday, 24 March 2021
The Next Generation

Photo © Steph Brown Photography Only two years ago, Joe Stockdale had graduated from school and was looking forward to pursuing a career in professional cricket. But instead, he followed in his late father Tim Stockdale's footsteps. Photo © Steph Brown Photography.

 

Text © FBJ Sports Media & Marketing for World of Showjumping

 


 

Only two years ago at 18 years old, Joe Stockdale – the son of the late British Olympic showjumper Tim Stockdale – had graduated from school and was looking forward to pursuing a career in professional cricket. He played for Northampton County 2nd team during his final years at school and had a plan to head out to Australia for six months over the winter 2018/2019.

Having grown up around horses, Joe started riding in the Oakley Hunt West Pony Club when he was 4 years old on a pony called Miss Muffet. During his Pony Club years, he competed on tetrathlon and showjumping teams, and he was also in the mounted games team at the prestigious Horse of the Year Show in 2013.  At the age of 12 he moved onto horses, however, he only competed occasionally, due to being busy playing cricket. “Dad loved all sports and I always had a passion for cricket,” Joe smiles. 

In the summer of 2018, Joe and his dad were able to enjoy going to a few more shows together as the pressure of schoolwork was over. Joe jumped at the British Showjumping National Championships in August, qualifying for the Horse of the Year Show on his grey stallion Gunner – or Romeo as he is known among friends. “I was offered Romeo to ride in 2015 by Esme Bas after she came for a lesson with my dad. He was only 15.2h and I was about 6ft tall but I have never carried much weight and we gelled immediately. Romeo hadn’t done much for his age, he had jumped a few 1.10m classes and done a bit of dressage,” Joe recalls.

Photo © Steph Brown Photography “As a team we aim to combine innovation with hard work and dedication," Joe says. Photo © Steph Brown Photography.

Then suddenly, shortly before the Horse of the Year Show in October 2018, Tim was rushed into hospital and subsequently diagnosed with cancer. Tim had qualified one of his horses for the show and told Joe to take him along with Romeo. In typical Tim style, he said to Joe: “Just go and enjoy the experience, it’s not like anyone is going to expect you to win the Grand Prix!”

On his first day, Joe jumped the five-fence challenge on Tim’s horse Don Diego De Plata and placed joint first. Tim watched proudly on the live stream from his hospital bed as Joe progressed through the days, having a very successful week, culminating in jumping in the Grand Prix on 15.2h Romeo. “Romeo and I had never jumped a 1.55m class before and I remember speaking to dad on the phone and he said “you have had a brilliant show and have done an amazing job,”” Joe tells.

Competitiveness is in Joe’s DNA and he had been brought up with Tim’s moto “There is no such word as can’t” ringing in his ears. The atmosphere at the Horse of the Year Show is always electric, packed to the rim with spectators on the final night, and you could hear a pin drop as Joe and little Romeo entered the arena. The cheers raised the roof as they went clear and into the jump-off against the likes of John Whitaker and Denis Lynch. Everyone was on the edge of their seats for the jump-off and at 1.60m Romeo showed that he doesn’t know how small he is and the two placed 9th.

A few weeks later, in November, Tim sadly lost his battle against the cancer and passed away. However, Tim had made sure to map out a detailed plan with Joe for the yard and the horses. Having watched Joe step up, have such a good Horse of the Year Show and handle the pressure like a pro, Tim’s owners and sponsors offered to support him and gave him the chance to keep the horses. “The success at the Horse of the Year Show had given me the confidence to know that I could do this as a career, so it was at that point that I decided to change career path and gave up cricket,” Joe recalls. 

Photo © Steph Brown Photography “2019 flew past and I was finding my feet with everything. I was running the yard, exercising, training, getting used to all the horses and driving the lorry," Joe tells. Photo © Steph Brown Photography.

Only a few months later, Joe and Romeo won their first world ranking class in Carmona, Spain. Joe followed up by winning the Under-25 class at Royal Windsor Horse Show and he was selected to jump on his first young riders team in Lamprechtshausen, Austria. He also took Don Diageo De Plata to be part of the young rider team for the European Championships in Zuidwolde, The Netherlands and in October was jumping at the Horse of the Year Show again. He finished the year competing at the iconic London International Horse Show in the Under-25 division. “2019 flew past and I was finding my feet with everything. I was running the yard, exercising, training, getting used to all the horses and driving the lorry, in addition to planning ahead.”

“When my dad passed away, I was sort of left on my own with the yard and the horses. I didn’t quite know what I was doing… I mean I thought I had an idea but when I look back, I realize actually I didn’t,” Joe says with a smile. “It was a steep learning curve, but I was very lucky to also have support from Will and Pippa Funnell who I have continued to train with. They really stepped up and lend me a hand and straight away helped me to make sure I was moving in the right direction. They have really been amazing.”

“The main thing I have learned from Will and Pippa is the production of the young horses. Obviously, with their experience from the Billy Stud, I have learned a huge amount – even just from watching them building up their young ones. The education aspect was quite new to me, so to be able to learn from them have been of massive help,” Joe says. 

Kalico Bay, Tim's King George V Gold Cup-winner, has also been a good teacher for Joe. The now 20-year-old gelding spends his retirement days at the Stockdale yard hacking out, and is made a fuss of by everyone in the stables who spoil him with treats. Having competed at the highest level of the sport with Tim, Kalico Bay has also turned out to be of good guidance for Joe. “It’s always helpful to get on him if I am struggling with teaching a young horse something on the flat,” Joe smiles. “Then I just get on Frankie and can feel how beautiful it can be done."

Photo © Steph Brown Photography At 21 years of age and only two years after taking up showjumping as a professional career, Joe secured a headline sponsorship deal with Equine America. Photo © Steph Brown Photography.

While the 2020-season was cut short due to Covid-19, Joe still kept busy. The year got off to a fantastic start with a very successful trip to the Sunshine Tour, Spain in March, before the pandemic forced everyone back to their homes. However, the lockdown in spring enabled Joe and his team to spend more time with the young horses, catch up with jobs around the yard and to launch his own brand Team Stockdale with team wear and supporters’ merchandise.

The first show for the team after lockdown was the British Showjumping National Championships at Bolesworth where Joe was proud to be their ambassador. This was followed by Hickstead, before heading back out to Spain again. In November, Joe was selected to be part of the senior Nations Cup team competing in Vejer de la Frontera and was thrilled with all of his horses’ performance to round off 2020. “I saw my horses improve and step up from when we were in Spain in March to when we went back in November and that is always a good feeling,” Joe says.

As the 2021-season got underway, Joe continued to build on last year’s work. In February, he and the 10-year-old Equine America Cacharel kicked off the Sunshine Tour with a 7th place in the first CSI4* Grand Prix before finishing 2nd in the following CSI4* Grand Prix – beating the likes of world no. one Steve Guerdat and European Team Champion Jerome Guery. “We have had Cacharel since she was a 3-year-old, my dad found her at a local auction,” Joe tells. “My dad always thought Cacharel was going to be a very special horse; she always had something about her – she picked up things so easily and has been a lovely horse to work with all the way through. Cacharel also has everything you want to see in a top Grand Prix horse: She is scopey, she has got a big stride and she is unbelievably careful. She knows she is special though, and she can be a bit of a princess,” Joe laughs. “I guess what really sets her apart is that she learns things so quickly. If you work on something one day, the next day she comes out and knows exactly how to do it – she picks up just like that.”

“When you have had a horse as long as we have had Cacharel, there is a lot of trust in that partnership,” Joe points out. “Obviously, we know each other very well by know and it’s just a bit of a different connection that you have with the horses that have been with you for that long.”

Photo © www.ahmed44photography.com. Joe and Equine America Cacharel have had a great start to the 2021-season. "Cacharel has everything you want to see in a top Grand Prix horse," Joe says. Photo © www.ahmed44photography.com.

Since 2018, Joe has been documenting his journey on social media and with YouTube vlogs on his own Team Stockdale channel and the FEI channel, accumulating a huge following across all of his platforms. He has managed to combine the new generation of digital supporters with some long-standing Team Stockdale followers, giving an insight into the life and times of a young professional showjumping team. “As a team we aim to combine innovation with hard work and dedication. Owners and sponsors are the back bone of the sport so if I can inform and promote whilst striving to achieve the best results with the optimum care and welfare of the horses then I will be happy,” Joe explains.  

At 21 years of age and only two years after taking up showjumping as a professional career, Joe recently secured a headline sponsorship deal with Equine America. From February 2021, Equine America has prefixed the names of Joe’s top string of horses and Joe now rides in their logo and colours. Equine America have confirmed their commitment to help the talented young rider and will underpin Joe as he grows on the worldwide stage. “I am thrilled that Equine America have the confidence to support me in the early stages of my career,” Joe says. 

As to his plans for the future, Joe says: “The Olympics is always a goal and the Europeans this year would be high on my list, hopefully we can get the horses out regularly again and everyone stays safe.”

“I am very lucky that my dad left me some really nice horses, and that his owners stayed on with me. Even though I was new to this, and inexperienced, they decided to back me. Without them, I would not have been where I am now,” Joe points out. “It’s all gone quite quickly and now it’s really special to see it all come together.”

 



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