Tag Archives: Event Horse Producer

Laura Collett, Pau 5* France.

Laura Collett beats off top-class field to win the only CCI5* of 2020.


If anyone understands the sweet taste of triumph against adversity, then it’s Laura Collett. The 16-year journey to winning her first 5* Three Day Event at Pau 5* France last weekend, has involved more challenges than your average rider, including an accident that left her in a coma for six weeks and permanent loss of sight in one eye.

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau was the only CCI5*-L of the entire season so inevitably attracted a world-class field. This included the top six highest-ranked riders in the world. Riding her Boekelo 2019 winner London 52, Laura who is ranked 49th, led the entire competition, beating Piggy French (Brookfield Inocent) into second and Tim Price (Wesko) into third.

Speaking after her victory Laura said: “The dream became a reality and I still can’t believe this is all really happening. This morning I was saying to myself that if I had the choice, I wouldn’t have wanted to ride any other horse than London 52 in this kind of competition! He is a fantastic jumper. It was his first time competing at this level and I really wasn’t expecting this kind of result at the end of the competition. All of last year it was a case of ‘very nearly’. We were unlucky and they were split-second moments that caused our undoing but that’s all it takes in our sport.”

Laura Collett, winner or Pau 5* France
An emotional moment captured by Hannah Cole Photography.

It was one of those moments in 2013 when competing in the cross-country, her horse misread a corner fence at Tweseldown and suffered a rotational fall, landing directly on top of the petite 5ft 3 rider who was instantly knocked out. In the ambulance, the paramedics had to resuscitate her five times and on arrival at the hospital, the extent of her injuries was substantial, including fractured shoulder, broken ribs, a punctured lung, a lacerated liver, and injuries to her kidneys. She was placed in an induced coma for six days and it later transpired that a fragment of her shoulder bone had gravitated to her right eye through her bloodstream. It damaged the optic nerve, and she lost sight in that eye completely.

It took many months to adapt her eyesight even for day to day life and she recounts walking into things a lot. “When I started jumping, it seemed like the jumps would move.” She now wears goggles to protect her eyes from the elements when she is going cross-country.

Fortunately, Laura cannot remember the accident, so she had no confidence issues returning to eventing. “By the time I woke up, it was under control and I was lucky not to have any brain injuries. All I wanted to do was get back to competing.” It might not surprise you that just over six weeks later, she was back riding, which she admits may have been too soon. Although like our Horse Scout CEO Lucienne Elms, Laura spent several months living at the Injured Jockey Fund Rehabilitation Centre, Oaksey House. “They were amazing and there is no way I would have made such a comeback and so quickly, without their help.”

Beyond guts, grit and adversity, eventing is about a partnership, trust and understanding between human and horse. Laura Collett has that ability to make her horses achieve their full potential and she describes her Pau winner London 52 as an insecure horse who has put a lot of trust in her, which ultimately helps. He has only ever known Laura as a rider from an early age in his sporting career. Training from the beginning of a horse’s journey is what builds the partnership, she explains. Laura who rides at least 13 horses a day has trained most of her champions from scratch, having never had the means to buy ‘ready-made’ champions.

Laura Collett abooard London 52
The culmination of years of hard work. Image rights – Hannah Cole Photography.

Laura was smitten from the first time she sat on a pony at the age of two and started out in showing but always her dream was to be a professional event rider. From early childhood, she learned that in order to survive, ponies would have to be bought, produced and sold.

At the age of 12, she found a young pony called Noble Springbok from a one-lined advert and purchased him for the moderate sum of £5500. Her mother allowed her to keep this one, knowing he could be the one to achieve her dreams. Training the pony from scratch, in their first year of competitive eventing, they won everything and attracted the eyes of Youth team selectors. Laura Collett was placed on World Class Programme which meant she received lottery funding. A privilege that requires consistent exceptional results and one that she is still part of, 15 years later.

In 2005 the formidable partnership were selected for the British Pony Event Team at the European Championships, where she won team gold and individual bronze. ‘Spring’ was to launch her career, on both notoriety and monetary grounds. She signed away the right to admit how much he was sold for but a ‘life-changing’ amount passed hands. At just 16 years of age, she bought a new lorry to transport her horses, developed her facilities at home and purchased Rayef. This was another young horse who she trained on to win team and individual golds at both the Junior and Young Rider European Championships and finished 8th at her very first Badminton aged just 22.

There is little time for hobbies and even when the eventing season is over, Laura spends the winters producing young horses and doing plenty of showjumping. She also loves horse-racing and her event yard is partially funded by having racehorses in for some jump training. She was partially responsible for a first and second place at this year’s Cheltenham Festival. Simply the Betts and St Calvados, two National Hunt horses trained by Harry Whittington were sent to her to jump, leading up the Festival where they finished first and second respectively.

Despite eventing often attracting an elitist image, Laura Collett is proof that hard work and talent are the real key to success. She has never felt particularly challenged by not having a big money pot and thinks it makes her success all the more rewarding. “I’ve never known it any different. We would always buy unbroken ones, train them and sell them to be able to afford to do it and I still have to do that now. With all the other challenges it feels extra special because you know exactly what has gone into that win.”

Featured Image rights – Solène Bailly photos.


Talking to Aaron Millar – International Event Rider

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailAaron Millar, international event rider

The Dorset-based rider gives his tips on training young event horses and explains how he’s building up a stable of top horses after a tragic road accident in 2015.

You had a serious car crash in 2015, are you fully recovered and what are your main goals?

Yes, I’m lucky… I’m now concentrating on building up the business. I lost quite a few horses to other riders after the accident – you can’t expect owners to wait for you to recover but it’s also taught be to rejig the business and I now have shares in all the horses.

So how are you building the business back up?

I have someone in Ireland who sends horses over. Anything good enough to go to the very top we keep. Anything else we keep, produce and sell. The plan is to have a top string of horses at all levels and to achieve that I’ve set up a syndicate of owners. Sarah Wild, a lady who used to work on Wall Street, helped me create an amazing business plan to offer investors.

And you also offer a scheme, Affordable Eventing, whereby you don’t have to invest large amounts of money?

Yes, it’s aimed at people who love the sport but can’t afford to be an owner. You invest a monthly fee, get the similar benefits as if you were the owner, but instead you have an interest in four horses that run. You get a day a month at the yard watching them trained, free entry to all BE fixtures and a share of the profit if they’re sold.

Tell us about your main horse.

I have a good advanced horse Leonardo VIII (Leo) who I compete at 3 star and who I’ve produced since a four-year-old. He’s 13 (2003) out of a TB mare and Dutch stallion (Maximillian Voltucky). He’s a real character and loves his job. He’s done Blenheim, placed in advanced classes.

Tell us about your other horses.

I could have bought a couple of really good established horses with the money from investors, but then there’s the risk that if one goes lame, there’s only one running, so instead I’ve chosen four or five top five-year-olds.

They’ve got serious potential….William Fox Pitt asked to buy a couple but they’re not for sale unless I get offered a ridiculous price I can’t refuse!

Friendship VDL is a 16.3hh six-year old gelding by Azteca VDL. He’s had some good placings at BE100.

Galoping B is a 16.2hh five-year old gelding by Bustique with a couple of placings at BE100.

Gold Flush is a 16.2hh five year old mare by Andiamo. I went to see a three-year old after my accident and I saw her in the corner. She’d just come over from Holland and had probably been on a farm or something as she clearly hadn’t been handled very much and looked a bit like an RSPCA case. I’m not sure what is was, but I just saw something in her. I bought her and sent her to my parents to be turned out to chill out and get fat, then brought her on slowly. She’s gone out as a five-year-old and been placed every time.

So what do you look for in an event horse?

Around 60 per cent thoroughbred and something that has quality movement, jump and temperament. I’m looking for a couple more – they’re hard to find! At the lower levels the foreign horses look smart but they’re not always careful and get tired at a high level if they jump huge over every fence. They can also get bored if they’ve gone from the stable to the school from a four-year old. The Irish, however, go hunting, they gallop hills, jump ditches, learn where their feet are and how to look after themselves and conserve energy. The cross country phase is so important now as we saw recently in Rio.

What tips would you give others looking to buy an event horse

Temperament is vital – finding a horse loves its job and wants to do it.

Riders who want an advanced horse will of course need something that has a little sharpness and to be able to dig deep. By sharpness I don’t mean something that whips round… I mean alert, switched on and able to deal and learn from its mistakes.

Any Horses for sale now (August 2016)?

I have one that would make an ideal junior young rider. It will easily jump a two-star advanced but for me it behaves too well… it just doesn’t have that spark I’m looking for to go to the very top.

What’s the best horse you’ve produced?

I guess it was Allercombe Ellie whom I produced from a five-year-old up to three-star level. In 2014 she was selected for the World Games and for Rio with Izzy Taylor but unfortunately she never went as she was lame. Knowing I’ve produced a horse to that calibre is really exciting.

What horse will you never forget?

Stormstay (Henry) who took me to my first Badminton – we had a faultless round cross country. He also gave me two clear rounds at Burghley before I retired him.

Any tips for people training a young event horse?

If it’s a young horse then take it hunting. They learn how to conserve energy and really dig deep when they are tired. Fitness is vital for any event horse and they also need core strength so we do a lot of pole work on lunge. We have our show jumps and dressage arenas in a field – young horses move naturally forwards in a field, whereas in the school they’re often not in front of your leg. They tend to enjoy working much more if you go for a short hack first. You can generally tell a horse that goes from the box to the school and back.

Describe a typical working week for your young horses.

On a Monday they might be hacked then go in the school long and low.

We use a lot of raised trot poles on floor to help them strengthen their core and develop their trot, and canter poles to help their jumping.

On Tuesday they’re hacked then worked more ‘up together’ on the flat in the field or in dressage arena.

On Wednesday they’d jump – depending on the horse they might go through a grid in the school or jump in the field. They’ll also go for a canter afterwards.

Thursday is an easier day – they’ll be hacked or be lunged over poles.

Friday depends on whether they’re competing the next day. If they’re going to a show, they might have little pop over a jump or two, or work through a test.

All of our horses get time out religiously every day. My main aim is that I want them to enjoy their job and to be doing four star eventing at 13-14 years old.

What’s your goal?

To be at the stage I was before the accident. I want to get back to Badminton and Burghley but I’m not in a rush. I have some very nice young horses but I want a yard full of horses with a high value of £30k upwards. At the moment we make it work by selling horses at£15k-£20k. We need a couple more investors and horses.

Interview for Horse Scout by Sam Lewis

Follow Aaron Millar and keep up-to-date on his progress and the horses he has up for sale either through his profile page here or on our Horses for Sale pages by using these links.  We have also a blog about Aarons’ horses for sale. 

Zazou Snow by Concorde; Zazou Snow is connected by breeding to four other stallions advertised on our Stallions at stud pages

Aaron Millar also has a lovely young coloured horse April Shower for sale, to find out more link to his Horses for Sale page on the Horse Scout web site.