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Localrider Magazine


Interview with Event Rider

Tom Crisp


March 2018

Plan your season with our Show Dates Guide PLUS where to go Cross Country Schooling


Show Reports & News from across the region More of your favourite Veterans COVERING KENT, SUSSEX, SURREY, HAMPSHIRE, BERKSHIRE & THE ISLE of WIGHT 03

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SPOTLIGHT Tom and Coolys Luxury competing at Badminton in 2016, the pair plan to return this year

Multi-talented event rider

Tom Crisp Husband, father, housebuilder, handyman, fire fighter and former national gymnast are just some of the titles that can be used to describe Tom Crisp, but readers of Localrider Magazine will know him best as the Sussex-based event rider and trainer. Fiona Rafferty went along to meet Tom and his wife Sophie at their home in Mayfield.


he Sussex countryside is covered in a light dusting of snow, turning everything into a winter wonderland, the morning I meet Tom and his wife Sophie at their yard in Mayfield, East Sussex. They both see the positive in this, saying that at least it hides the mud. Their positive attitude is something I am to see more of throughout the interview, which starts with time on the yard meeting the rest of the team, Head Girl, Amy Akehurst and groom, Aidan Cannings. Amy had worked for Tom through her holidays whilst at Hadlow College, joining full time in 2016 and Aidan joined at the end of December, he has a background in hunting and is hoping to improve his riding, while learning from Tom. The snow doesn’t stop play, when the yard is blessed with an enormous indoor school, which is peppered with show jumps and indoor cross-country fences. I watch as Tom schools Don Zephyr, a homebred seven-year-old by Don VHP Z out of BA Serendipity, who under Tom’s calm and quiet riding grew in confidence and so too did the quality of his work. We are later joined by his six-year-old full sister, Donna Halcyon, who is ridden by Aidan. Known as Happy at home, she was placed every time out during her first season eventing in 2017. Different in both size and temperament, with Happy looking like she was born to gallop, Tom considers them equally talented and said they both had very similar results at the same stages of their career.

Homebred horses Of the ten event horses on the yard approximately half are homebred by Sophie’s parents, Robin and Patricia Balfour. Sophie said: “They love watching the homebreds being produced and competed, but we have had to limit them to just one a year now. They got a bit carried away breeding four one year.” Sophie was the driving force behind her family’s love of horses, learning to ride when she lived in America in her junior school years. Sophie is the eldest of four children and rode up to four-star level, but for the last few years has cut back on her competition riding to focus on Tom and their children, although she is very much involved

Pictures by Nigel Goddard and Fiona Rafferty

Sophie started Liberty and Glory’s eventing career, before passing the ride to Tom

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Tom and the homebred Don Zephyr

in the day to day running of the yard and working the horses. Sophie’s sister Charlotte was on the Junior European Team in Vittel in 1999 and also competed at Blenheim in 2000 and 2001, before retiring from competitive riding. While her brothers, George and Victor, enjoyed Pony Club rallies and camp. Sophie’s father, Robin, was Chairman of the British Junior Eventing Selectors for ten years after Charlotte graduated from juniors.

Building a home Tom, Sophie and their children, Harry, 10 and Hugo, 8, live in a very stylish, but temporary wooden bungalow, whilst they build their own house, just metres from the yard, within the grounds of Sophie’s parents’ home. Tom and Sophie are doing all the work themselves, and having bought a dumper truck they have removed tonnes of soil, from not only the foundations, but also a basement, which will provide plenty of additional living space. The timber frame of the house arrived in early January and Tom has since been tiling the roof. Tom is renowned amongst the eventing fraternity for his handyman skills, taking on small building projects during the winter months He recently installed stylish bathrooms in both the homes of Francis and his sister, Bryony Whittington. Tom grew up in Suffolk, learning to ride with his elder brother, Ben, at Hilltops Riding School, near Lowestoft. It wasn’t long before the boys had the bug and the family, whose house had a couple of acres, bought their first horse. In fact, it was horses that helped Tom hone his DIY skills, as he worked alongside his father transforming a bomb shelter into a stable. Tom talks fondly of his time with the Waveney Harriers Pony Club, particularly of camp, when he was just one of three boys in attendance. It couldn’t have all been about the girls though, as Tom was soon competing his mare, Barnabys Ballard at BE competitions. Coincidentally, his first ever BE event was at Crockstead in 1996. A location not a million miles from where he is now based and also not far from Golden Cross, where Tom was later to be based as stable jockey for Ian Bareham.

Tom and Liberty and Glory competing in the OI at Eridge

In the medals Tom and Barnabys Ballard’s success continued, and in 1999 they finished second in the Young Rider Trial at Bramham behind Ruth Edge and were part of the silver medal winning team at the Young Rider Europeans in Necarne. Two years later they completed Burghley and Tom won the award for the Highest placed Young Rider.

Badminton bound Many Badmintons and Burghleys have followed since and current star of the yard, 16-year-old Coolys Luxury is on target for 2018, when Tom hopes they can finally lay their Badminton ghost to rest. The pair had an unfortunate mishap in 2016, and then in 2017 Tom frustratingly had to pull him up, when Cooly just wasn’t feeling right in himself at the beginning of the course. Hot on Coolys’ heels is a feisty pocket rocket, Liberty and Glory aka Lori. The 11-year-old mare is by Caretino Glory out of one of Sophie’s favourite mares, Little Runnymede, and is owned by Sophie and her mother, Patricia. She ended 2017 with two CCI3* runs and if all goes to plan she could be jumping around her first four-star event later in the year.

Supportive owners Whilst many of the horses are homebred and owned by Tom, Sophie and her parents, Tom is quick to credit his other ‘wonderful’ owners. He first met Martyn and Sharon Ault, when their daughter, who is now a vet, came for work experience. They own the majority share in Coolys Luxury and Winterdown Royale aka Jovi, who joined the yard in 2014, having previously show jumped in Ireland. Jovi had some good results in 2017 and will hopefully be moving up to three-star level this year. Perhaps the biggest horse on the yard is Vanessa Harrison’s Don Alfabio aka Fabi, who stands at 18.2hh. The now nine-year-old

Tom and Don Zephyr’s full sister, Donna Halcyon, competing at Eridge

MARCH 2018 Localrider 11

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Tom Crisp in Localrider March 2018  

In the Localrider Magazine March 2018 issue we interview local event rider Tom Crisp.

Tom Crisp in Localrider March 2018  

In the Localrider Magazine March 2018 issue we interview local event rider Tom Crisp.