In the second part of Eventing Worldwide’s interview with Harry Meade, his discusses how he balances his career with a young family, his comeback from injury and what he likes to do away from the eventing circuit.
With the eventing season running from March to October, and many of the winter months spent
preparing for the following year, it is hard for all riders to maintain a balance of achieving sporting excellence and making time for a family.
Harry and his wife Rosie, whom he married in October 2010, have two young children – Lily and Charlie. So how does he find the correct balance of work and home life? Harry admits it’s not that easy. He says: “I think anyone who has a career with horses, irrespective of the level you are competing at, will understand that it is all consuming. If you’re trying to give your horses the best of everything it often means compromising your own lifestyle in order not to compromise the horses’ training. Then there is the added time pressure from sponsorship and media work. It’s about having things in balance.
“It is important to be able to step away from the intensity of the competitive mindset and actually have other things – ultimately more important things – in your life, which gives you a sense of perspective outside of competing.
“We are very lucky that our children are pretty happy to come all over the place. Some people go off to work for the week and don’t see their children but I get to see them because they come with me. It’s a real positive and it’s good fun for them – they have a great outdoors lifestyle.”
So will Harry encourage his own children to follow in his footsteps, as he did in his father’s? Harry believes there is a case of déjà vu.
“Rosie always said before we had children that she wouldn’t necessarily want our children to take the same route as I did, and I know my mother had the same attitude with me. But I think I would take the attitude my father had, which was if it is really what they want to do then I would encourage and support them. But I certainly wouldn’t push them. If they want to have a career in eventing then it’s important they go into it with their eyes open because it is a lot of hard work and they need to be in it for the right reasons. They need to passionate about horses and training them, and be prepared to make sacrifices and take the up and downs. But if they can do that then it is a wonderful life.”
In August 2013 Harry suffered a rotational fall whilst at Wellington. He shattered and dislocated both of his elbows which required extensive reconstructive surgery. The following months were torturous for Harry and Rosie. With his arms suspended from hooks, he had no movement in his hands and needed 24 hour care. Despite a lengthy period of rehabilitation, a return to the saddle looked doubtful. Harry was forced to consider life away from competing and an alternative career.
But Harry did return to the saddle, and in a remarkable comeback claimed his highest placing at Badminton Horse Trials in May (3rd with Wild Lone).
Harry feels the enforced sabbatical helped him focus on returning to the saddle. He says: “When you believe your career is finished you think of all the things you would have liked to have done, and when you then get that second chance you go into it with clarity of thought. One of the things that comes to the fore in a situation like this is the qualities and loyalty of those around you. You are reliant on the support of others. My owners couldn’t have been more supportive and the team on the yard kept everything going. It wasn’t just a case of being out for half a year. There was the uncertainty the whole time, nobody knew what lay ahead. It appeared to be an indefinite situation. Rosie had to give up her job as a school teacher to look after me. My father was a great help, he schooled two or three horses a day at the age of 75, as was Angela Tucker who had some of the horses to stay with her for training. The World Class Squad (of which Harry has been a member of for the past seven years) helped me during my rehabilitation phase. Once I was able to start regaining movement, I spent a lot of time in hydrotherapy pools, physiotherapy and specialist gyms, organised by the World Class programme and the English Institute of Sport.”
As Harry mentioned, as well as horses, his time is also taken up with media and sponsorship work. His prominence as one of the country’s leading riders has seen him work with major brands including HSBC, Land Rover, Pol Roger and Dodson & Horrell. But Harry would like to see more sponsors come into the sport to bring it to a wider audience.
“Obviously bringing more sponsors into eventing would benefit the sport but also open it to new audiences. Eventing offers a huge amount – it’s a great way for companies to entertain clients. Most corporate hospitality takes place at male orientated sporting events like football or rugby, where you watch from a single seat. Eventing’s appeal to the whole family is a unique selling point. It takes place in beautiful locations and is a clean, healthy sport. All of these matter to sponsors when choosing how to entertain.”
In the off season Harry believes it is important to get away, saying: “We don’t get very many weekends off between March and October but we make a conscious effort to make time to meet up with friends, so that you don’t shut off the outside world, which is easy to do when it’s so intense. I enjoy a bit of skiing in the winter and do quite a bit of hunting – it gives you something different to enjoy.”
This winter, Harry and Rosie will be heading to Africa with Ride World Wide on a horseback safari. He says: “It should be a wonderful trip, spending a couple of weeks in November in the heat will be a real treat. I’ve never been to Botswana but I’m looking forward to seeing the game up close, much closer than you could in a vehicle.”
To find out more about Harry, his horses or how you could become an owner visit his website – www.harrymeade.com.
There are spaces to join Harry on his trip on the Okavango Riding Safari. For more information contact Rosie Till at Ride World Wide. on 01837 82544 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.