Harry Meade may be the son of Olympic legend Richard, but he’s making a name for himself as one of Great Britain’s leading event riders.
Harry is well known for his successes at four star level throughout the past decade and was a member of the British team at last year World Equestrian Games. He is currently experiencing a successful season with wins at each of his last four events including Barbury International.
In a two part interview, Eventing Worldwide caught up with Harry to find out what he looks for in a horse, how he balances his career with a young family, what he likes to do when he’s not eventing & how eventing can be taken to a new audience.
From as early as he can remember, Harry Meade wanted to be an event rider. He grew up with horses thanks to his Olympian father Richard, and would ride his first pony Tom Thumb bareback.
He says eventing is in his genes. “I very much wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps,” says Harry. “I have a brother and sister who were never particularly interested – they rode and were in the Pony Club (all three were members of the Beaufort Hunt Pony Club) but I was always mad keen and interested in horses.
“I have seen it now with my own children. I’ve got a daughter and a son, and my daughter is as interested in horses as any girl that age. And my son, before he could walk or talk, was obsessed with horses so I’m sure there is a genetic predisposition with horses.
Whilst some people would feel the pressure to follow in their famous father’s footsteps, Harry never felt any demands for him to go into the same career.
Richard, who sadly passed away at the start of the year, was Britain’s most successful equestrian Olympian, winning team Gold at the 1968 Olympics before going on to win team and individual gold in 1972, and he had a huge influence on Harry. He says of his father: “He was a real horseman. He had a tremendous feel and a real brain for horses. He was able to get a tune out of difficult and unorthodox horses and was very good at finding a key and getting them to work really quietly. He was just able to get them on his side. Growing up around somebody like that you learn a awful lot.”
Another rider to have an influence on Harry is team mate William Fox-Pitt. In 2003, Harry went to work at the Dorset-based riders yard, where he stayed for a couple of years, and was able to hone his approach to riding and training. “William is somebody who I look up to a lot,” comments Harry. “I learnt a lot about his whole system while I was with him – about how he runs a yard, his approach to training, his approach to competing and approach to owners. He is somebody who was a great help to me and has become a good friend. His approach to eventing has shaped how I run my own yard. I’m very lucky to have such a good foundation from my father and from what I learnt from William.”
Harry has also taken inspiration from close friend Olympic medal winning dressage rider Laura Tomlinson (nee Bechtolsheimer). Harry says it’s been great working with a friend. “We used to meet up and she would give me a dressage lesson and I would give her a jumping lesson. I personally think it is important to have a good relationship with somebody you are training with and I have very much enjoyed my time working with Laura. She is very blunt, very direct and she’ll tell me if something is good or tell me if it’s crap!
Harry has a relatively small string of horses at his base near Chippenham but this hasn’t stopped him from being as successful as much bigger yards on the international stage. But what does Harry look for in his horses?
“Athleticism is a horse’s key attribute,” believes Harry. “It encompasses a lot of individual traits you look for – balance, suppleness, paces, jump and movement. When I think of some of the good horses I’ve ridden over the years like Midnight Dazzler or Wild Lone, they were both real athletes. And then the mindset – the kind of horse that wants to do the job – is also important. The type of horse that when they are a gangly youngster can break into trot and pop over a fence with their ears pricked, or can trip up a step and still jump the fence on the other side. Every horse is individual and they all have different characteristics. Often the horses that are good are quite far off perfection but they’re still good enough to reach the top.”
Of his current rides, Charlotte Opperman’s Away Cruising is one horse that Harry believes has true four star potential. The grey gelding was second in the CCI two star at Tatterstalls earlier this year and is a bright prospect for the future.
Harry says: “He is an eight year old who I have ridden since he was four. He’s a lovely stamp of a horse and he has all the qualities to be a four star horse – I’ve felt that since he was a five year old. He is developing on track and this season he’s done his second CCI two star and his first CIC three star. We’ll look to do another three star with him in the autumn so he comes out next season as an experience, established three star horse. It’s all about providing the best possible foundations so when he steps up to four star he gets there brimming with confidence with no holes in his development so that he can flourish and last at that level.”
Given what Harry looks for in a horse, which eventing star would he like to have ridden? Harry says he frequently gets asked this question but the horse he has always admired is Lenamore. Why? “He encompassed everything that you look for in an event horse. He was athletic and light on his feet, and his strength of character played a big part in his success and longevity at four star level.”