Joe Clayton, 26 – International show jumper – Nottinghamshire
Horse Scout speaks to the international show jumper about working for Olympian Michael Whitaker, his top horses, favourite stallions, ultimate goals and achievements
You’re second cousin to John and Michael Whitaker — were you riding horses before you could walk?
No, my mum has always had horses so I’ve always been around them, but I was into football mainly and only really started riding when I was 11.
And when did you started jumping?
As soon as I started to ride…
Didn’t you fall off?
I could ride straight but fell off at the corners…
So how did you learn to stay on?
My mum had lessons with Susie Gibson and I started having 10 minutes at the beginning or end of her lesson and pretty soon I’d hijacked her entire lesson. I also had some good ponies — from William Whitaker, who was just around the corner.
What was your first job?
I went to work for Alan Fazakerley (British pony team coach) and Sally Lane in Essex, before coming back up north to Michael Whitaker’s yard. I’ve been here eight or nine years now.
So your trainer is Michael Whitaker?
Yes, he’s really helpful on the flat and jump. His son, Jack, is here too and we chat amongst ourselves and work together as a team, trying to improve and make our horses better.
What’s a typical week for the horses when you’re at home?
Flatwork Monday and Tuesday and a grid Wednesday for the young ones, followed by perhaps a couple of local shows. The older ones don’t jump too much but they get to hack around the block and go on the treadmill in the afternoon. We’ve just had a gallops put in which is really useful and they go on that to warm up and loosen off most days. They all get a day off and time in the field.
What’s your best tip for budding show jumpers?
Keep going… it can be difficult but keep training and you’ll figure it out.
And your advice for buying a show jumper?
Pick something that suits you – don’t buy a sharp one if you’re hot seated for example.
And do you think bloodlines are important?
If a horse jumps and it’s good, sometimes doesn’t matter. But I do find bloodlines interesting and it’s handy to see how many good horses certain stallions have produced.
So do you have a favourite stallion?
Not really, although I’ve had a couple of amazing horses by Calvaro, there are a lot of good stallions out there like Concord and Heartbreaker. Michaels seven-year-old grey stallion, Valmy de La Lande (Mylord Carthago x Starter), is also looking like a serious future prospect — I won the mare and stallion class on him at Hickstead recently.
to see Joe clayton on action use this link to his youtube site https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABIIOl15biw
Tell us about your main horses and their main achievements.
My top ride is Conman JX, a 2007 bay gelding (Conterno Grande x Chacoa) owned by Michael Whitaker and Sarah Billington. He’s come on so much and has lots of ability although still a bit green at the level he’s jumping at.
He’s done a few Nation Cups and 5-star Grand Prix and came third at the Nations Cup in Falsterbo, Sweden this year.
He’s a bit of a funny character, quite nervous and needs his own space. He hates other horses so he goes out on his own and can be quite hard to ride with other horses around which means I sometimes have to warm up early.
Cally V is a 2008 chestnut mare, home bred by Michael (Calvaro out of a good mare of Michael’s).
She’s scopey and very promising jumping 1.40s normally clear. She’s done a couple of international shows and gone well in the small classes.
Millioninmind is a 2007 bay gelding, owned by Steve Barnes. He’s very promising and won Grade C at HOYs last yar, now competing 1.40 and 1.45 two-star Grand Prix. He placed first at a 3-star this year. He’s cheeky, likes his food and always overweight.
Lexie III is another homebred mare by Calvaro (2009) and has qualified for Newcomers HOYs.
She’s another funny character and can be a bit of a madam sometimes.
Do you have time to ride any more?
I’m always looking for good horses and owners who would like to support me.
So what would you consider your best achievement?
Jumping double clear at the super league Nations Cup (5-star) last year in Gijon, Spain.
I’ve won the puissance at HOYs puissance twice on two different horses.
Also winning at the accumulator a The Great Yorkshire show in 2015.
And your ultimate goal?
Like most people, I would love to ride at the Olympics one day… I would love to win the Grand Prix (Cock of the North) at my favourite show (Great Yorkshire) and win at Championship level one day!
Why Horse Scout?
It’s great to build a profile and to see those of other riders. The horses you browse, aren’t the same ones all the time either.
Interview by Horse Scout Journalist Sam Lewis
More About Horse Scout and Joe Clayton