Event rider Jesse Camp­bell has had his first taste of four-star suc­cess, and he’s in it for the long haul, as he tells Julie Hard­ing

NZ Horse & Pony - - Our Month -

‘ MAK­ING it in event­ing has been se­ri­ously dif­fi­cult and the hard­est part is when things go wrong be­cause you have no sup­port net­work. It’s just you,” says Jesse Camp­bell as he sits in the tack­room at Maizey Manor Farm in Wilt­shire, al­most 12,000 miles from home in the Waikato.

Jesse, at 6ft 6in tall one of the lofti­est event riders on the planet, has just re­turned from Luh­mühlen in Ger­many, where he fin­ished 16th at his first four-star in hot com­pany aboard his lead­ing light, Kaa­pachino. Two phases went al­most per­fectly, and af­ter scor­ing 36.8pen (75.5%) in the dres­sage, Jesse was over­come with emo­tion.

“I saw three 9s go up for the last halt and thought that it may be a sym­pa­thy mark, but Erik [Du­van­der] told me to stay there and watch my score. When it flashed up I burst into tears. It’s been such a hard road and Kaapy isn’t very tal­ented on the flat.”

A clear cross-coun­try round bang on the op­ti­mum time was fol­lowed by a dis­ap­point­ing four rolled rails in the jump­ing for a fi­nal 16th place; a clear round would have seen him fifth.

How­ever, just com­pet­ing at four-star level is lit­tle short of a mir­a­cle for man and horse, as both have suf­fered a se­ries of set­backs on their jour­ney to the top. Kaa­pachino re­quired a year off for a ten­don in­jury in 2013. Then, as he was be­ing honed for this year’s Bad­minton, he de­vel­oped a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion which meant miss­ing the UK’S premier spring four-star.

“With hind­sight it was a good thing. Go­ing to Luh­mühlen gave us a lit­tle more time to pre­pare,” says Jesse, as he checks

his con­tin­u­ally buzzing phone for the latest in a long line of text mes­sages.

But Jesse’s own dark prob­lems make Kaa­pachino’s look pale by com­par­i­son. He lost his con­fi­dence while based at An­drew Ni­chol­son’s yard.

“I had al­ways wanted to be the best, but I didn’t think that I could do it any more,” ex­plains Jesse. “It took un­til the mid­dle of last year to get my con­fi­dence back. I had good peo­ple around me, in­clud­ing Erik, who stepped back in to train me, [dres­sage trainer] Lisa White, who helped me out of the rut, plus, of course, my girl­friend Goose [Leigh].”

There are also his par­ents – fa­ther Craig is a GP and mother Ezra is a for­mer art teacher and pot­ter – who have as­sisted fi­nan­cially, phys­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally. Event­ing, he ad­mits, has not only taken over his own life, but also his mother’s. She trans­ported her stat­uesque son to ev­ery show hunter, pony club and event­ing com­pe­ti­tion he ever con­tested from the age of 11 on­wards.

“I’ve al­ways had a pas­sion for horses. I’ve no idea where it came from, as no one else is horsey in my fam­ily. When I was a kid and we vis­ited mum’s friend I got out of my stroller and they found me in the pad­dock un­der one of the horses.”

Craig phones while we are talk­ing. “Dad, I’m just in a meet­ing. Can I call you back?” says Jesse, who races through our dis­cus­sion, mind­ful of the fact that at noon he must leave for Dublin with Goose (real name Lucy) for a Tay­lor Swift con­cert.

A spe­cial mo­ment with Kaa­pachino.

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