Background

The Riders Background 

My name is Steph Croxford and I am an Environmental Geologist/ Geochemist by profession. I currently work for an Engineering Consultancy called White Young Green. I have only been riding properly for the last 11 years, since the age of 24. Before that my sporting interests were more tennis, squash and other much safer sports such as rugby. It was the my future husband (Simon) who can be blamed for my interest in horses, as it was he who had the horse when I met him at university. He had a nutty hunter called Gallow who spent more time on 2 legs than 4. In order to spend some quality time with my then boyfriend I tried to show some willing and so was introduced to these 4 legged creatures that bit at one end and kick from the other. Eventually I threw caution to the wind and climbed on board one of these monster creatures.Well I can a sure you that I spent more time on the floor than on the animals back for the first few months. As time went on, I learnt to ride in a very safe but unflattering style that ensured that I could generally stay on, no matter which end decided to tip up first. I think you could call it the “clinging on foetal position”. My future husband eventually gifted the nutty hunter “Gallow” to me (secretly I think he was trying to kill me or at least render me permanently incapacitated!). I learnt many valuable lessons from that horse, of which hold be in good stead today with my two young horses.  Following his retirement I managed to save up enough money to by my own ex – steep chaser, known as Waverley. I know what you are thinking… that I was mad to get an ex – racehorse but he was the kindest and most gentle Irish thoroughbred that I could have wished for. He would jump anything for me. However, the flat work was not that great, but at that time, having the correct way of going did not hold that much interest for me. We had several wonderful years jumping and galloping together before he sustained an injury from another horse in the field. It was following his recovery that I finally decided that the kindest thing would be to sending to a gentle hacking home where he would be allowed to semi retire. I knew that I could not trust myself not to continue pushing him over bigger and bigger jumps again. I was concerned that one day he would jump a jump and his leg would not hold up to his and my combined weight. It was whilst I was still moaning the loss of Waverley that I decided to go and view a small insignificant 3.5 year old gelding advertised in our local newspaper. This horse was soon to be known as Mr President.  

Origin of the Name Mr President 

He was named after the former American President Bill Clinton. This was because he used to be a one for the ladies. He used to spend all his days separating the mares from the geldings in his field before courting his captured girls. One day a visitor to the yard happen to mention that he should be named Clinton, after the former disgraced US President. We thought the name Clinton was too obvious, so we decided that Mr President would do instead.   

Mr President’s Life History to Date 

Mr President was originally bred in Ireland by an unknown Gelderlander X Hackney stallion out of a Dutch Warmblood mare. He was unpapered and was initially bred for driving. He was sold and transported to North Yorkshire, England, where he was raised in the hope that he would grow big enough to drive and compete as part of a team of Gelderlanders. Unfortunately, this was not to be and he was backed and broken to saddle as a 3 year old. He was advertised in the back of a relatively local paper (The Yorkshire Post) for £2,500 where is was spotted by myself. As I was still traumatised by the very sad sale of a wonderful Irish Thoroughbred (Waverley) I decided to go and have a look at this cheap little horse. I have to admit that my first impressions were not that positive. I looked at the little 16 hh chestnut gelding tethered in an old Victorian stall and immediately asked if there was anything else for sale. The owner promptly showed me 5 other horses before asking me to at least look at the little horse out of his stall. In order to show willing I agreed to stay and look at the little horse loose jump. Well it was the jump that sold him to me. He could jump 5+ foot with ease, but didn’t know how to canter. So there and then, I bought him and that is where it all began. We then spent the next year or so having great fun galloping over cross country courses, show jumping and occasionally competing in local one day events. It was not until a trainer at a local cross country training day told me, ‘that my horse belonged in the dressage arena, not the cross country field!’, that first began to wonder. I promptly trotted off to a couple of local unaffiliated dressage competitions and to both myelf and my husband’s (Simon) astonishment, we won! So we then thought that this “trotting round in circles” could be quite fun.  Following our amazingly success 2 unaffiliated competitions, we decided to affiliate ourselves. We then entered the Potential International Dressage Horses Class for 4 yr olds, where we got absolutely hammered fair and square by some of the most beautiful horses I had ever seen. It was at this point, that both Simon and I thought that we had significantly misjudged this dressage game. Perhaps it was a little harder than we initially thought! Slowly over the next couple of years Mr President and I rose up through the dressage levels. The judges seemed to either love us or hate us. We were either 1st or last. Many judges didn’t like his ‘way of going’. They said he was flat over the back and short in the neck. My answer to this was to run away to the next level and show that although he was unconventional he could still do the tricks! We continued merrily on in our blissful ignorance and we commenced PSG (small tour) at the grand age of 7. We did the tricks and then managed to qualify for the PSG International Potential Dressage Horse finals…where we came second from last. Not phased by this illustrious results we continued to play with the tricks that took horses to Grand Prix whilst we were out on our daily hacks and by the grand old age of 9 he embarked on his Grand Prix career. We started relatively well and were getting results that ranged from 62% to 65% during the initial part of our first season at the level. These results got us noticed by the British Senior Selectors and before we had a chance to take stock of what was happening, we were selected to represent Great Britain at the Hickstead CDI 3*. To be perfectly honest I was absolutely terrified at the thought of this and felt that it was far too soon for Mr President and I to take this next step up in our career. I rode around this first CDI 3* like a rabbit in headlights. I forgot to ride and Mr President was left to fend for himself out there in that big International Arena, all on his own. We at least managed to gain a score of 61.5%, which was something.  Following this frightening experience Simon and I decided that both Mr President and I needed to learn to start doing the tricks in the way that the judges wanted us to do them, not how we wanted to do them. Therefore, we managed to persuade Richard Davison to give us the benefit of his umpteen years of International Competition experience.  Our first lesson was not the best. He finished with the words….” Don’t come back to me until you can persuade that horse to put his neck where you not he want it!” Well that took six months of painstaking perseverance, but eventually we began to get there. Once I was brave enough to call Richard back, be resumed our lessons and we have not looked back since. We qualified for the National Championships in 2005 and 2006 at Int II and the Grand Prix Level and managed to compete with more success at home International’s in 2006, (See track report for results).  During 2006 Mr President and I have managed to continue to improve our scores and have won several Grand Prix’s, Kurs and Grand Prix Special’s at several Premier League competitions in the UK. We were also rewarded for being the “Best of the Brits” at Fry’s International CDI 2*and we have managed to finish in the top ten at Int II and Grand Prix level at the National Championships. The highlight of 2006 had to be competing in the World Cup Qualifier at Olympia. We never thought in a million years that we would be good enough to be selected for the cmpetition, so when the call came, we were all in shock. After looking at the start list I was convinced that we would have done well not to finish bottom of the group. I was having nightmares of only getting 47% and being escorted off the Olympia Premises in disgrace. Therefore, when I found out I was 2nd to go in the Grand Prix, I was not surprised. At least being 2nd into the arena ment that there was no pressure. Therefore, under the eagle eyes of both my husband (Simon) and trainer (Richard Davison), Mr President and I did the best Grand Prix that we were both capable of at that time in our life’s. I had no idea of my score after completing our test as I was marched off for a drugs test for nearly 2 hours. To my shock, I found that I had managed to qualify for the Kur! (audio at : http://www.olympiahorseshow.com/audio/Stephanie%20Croxford.mp3 and reports at http://www.olympiahorseshow.com/last_year/news_detail.asp?NewsID=61) . Well then panic really set in. this was because I had not bothered to practice my music because I was convinced I wouldn’t get through. Therefore, for me the Kur was a huge disappointment, as I knew that Mr President and I could do so much better. That will teach me to practice my tests regardless! 

The Future

Who knows where the future will take us. All Mr President and I want to do is get better and more consistent. I would like the world to see just how amazing this little horse really is. He has taken a novice rider on the journey of a life time and it is a privilege to know him. I want to ensure the Mr President still enjoys what he does. Come the day that I feel that he no longer wants to drag me down the centre line with a big grin of his face looking for the judges to prove how good he is, then that is the time to say “thank you and good night”. He will then be allowed to live is life out as he feels fit in a nice big grassy field with a friend for company and a very large mud hole, where he can wallow away the hours. 

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