This week I’m chatting with British international grand prix dressage rider and trainer, Hannah Biggs. Hannah has had success both at home and abroad and has competed at some of the highest profile events around the world. Running a string of horses from her home in the South West, Hannah has also built a reputation as a leading dressage trainer on the global stage, training riders in Moscow, Oslo and Hong Kong to name just a few. Read on to discover more about Hannah’s story to date…
Tell us a little about you and your horses
I am an international grand prix rider, coach and UKCC 3 and Youth Performance coach. I chased my dream from an early age and have ridden on Young Rider teams and Nations Cup teams as a Senior at the huge 5* shows Hagen, Rotterdam, and Aachen. I’ve also competed at some of the best shows in the world, including Fritzens in Austria, Amsterdam, and Olympia in London.
I was part of the World Class Programme for 6 years and went to the London 2021 Olympics as part of the Ambition Programme for future Olympic athletes.
At home I run a small training yard, help to look after my disabled mum, work with my husband on his new business as well as riding and coaching every day.
Competing on the world stage is my drive, the love for my horses is what gets me out of bed in the morning and I am so lucky to fund all this by travelling the world to coach and share my knowledge and experience along the way.
I love learning, always have my head in a sports psychology or autobiography book or listening to high performance podcasts. Such a dressage nerd!
I’ve had some incredible horses teach me along my career and I currently have 6 future stars in the stables and not forgetting Weltzin who is 22 and now enjoying this retirement.
Freeman is an 8-year-old 17hh bay gelding by Foundation x Ehrenstolz. I discovered him at the Westfalian Elite Auction in Germany and the wonderful David and Sarah Johnson from Equine Construction secured him for me. I now own him in partnership with them.
He has won titles at Medium level and was crowned Hickstead Young Horse Reserve Champion and Shearwater National Young Horse Champion 6-year-old at the British Dressage National Championships in 2019. He is definitely my next Grand Prix star and is quietly training at home.
Dutch Harbor H is a 7-year-old 17.1hh chestnut gelding by Destano x Stedinger. He is owned by Ada Bjordahl, from Oslo and I am producing him up the levels for her. He has won the last 7 classes he’s contested at Elementary and Medium level.
Briarwood Narcissa is a 5-year-old 16hh black mare by Negro x Floriscount. ‘Millie’ is owned by myself, Tanya Brown and Laura Humphreys from Briarwood Stud. She is a super-hot little pocket rocket who is ready to get out competing this year.
SJL Lord Lennox is a 5-year-old 16.1hh black gelding by Lord Leatherdale x Olivi and is owned by Leslie Forlee. ‘Lenny’ is a very new addition to the yard but was very successful last year in the 4-year-old Young Horse classes, so I can’t wait to get out competing with him.
I also have two beautiful yearlings growing up in the fields. I had huge success over the past few years with Don Caledonia, bred by the Caledonia stud in Scotland, so when I sold him last year, I wanted to go back to the stud to secure my next superstars! I have two wonderful boys in Gallant Caledonia (Glamourdale x Sezuan) and Valiant Caledonia (Valverde x Welt Hit II)
How did horses come into your life?
I was born and brought up in Hong Kong, so horses were not an obvious choice. We did have the huge racing scene in HK, but it was on holiday in the UK, at my Grandma’s house in Devon that I was bitten by the horsey bug. My parents had previously ridden a little, so they took me to the local riding stables, Cheston, and we went galloping over Dartmoor together!
I bugged my parents to let me continue riding back in HK, so they found the public riding school at Pok Fu Lam for me to start learning. I then progressed on to riding at Beas River Country Club and Lo Wu Services Saddle Club. We rode ex racehorses and naughty ponies and had so much fun!
I really believe this fun yet challenging start to my riding career has had a huge impact on how I ride and coach.
How long have you been riding?
I think I was 5 years old when Mum sat me on a pony for the first time in Devon. Apparently, I loved it so much I refused to take my riding hat off when we went for lunch afterwards!
We moved to the UK when I was 19 and I have chosen riding as my full-time career ever since then.
When and where do you ride?
Every day at home, sometimes away at shows and at Carl Hester’s yard when training.
What you and your horses currently working on?
I actually really enjoyed the time away from competing during lockdown, getting back to basics, and remembering the pure love between me and the horses. I do a mixture of schooling work, hacking, pole work and a lot of groundwork. I have been working on the TRT Method groundwork which is proving to be an essential part of our training.
What do you love about riding?
I love the relationship and bond you build up with a horse. Each one has it’s own personality and it is my job as a rider to find out what makes them tick, to educate them mentally and prepare them physically and emotionally to be able to enjoy our time together. I love learning and I also love competing, so the two go hand in hand for me and the feeling of the horse dancing underneath you, completely in tune with my thoughts, is just the best feeling in the world!
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
More of everything. To get back out competing on the world stage. To spend quality time with each horse and do my very best for them. To be able to travel again and help others achieve their goals.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
I have learnt what my nerves meant to me. To really understand the emotional drive that takes us to where we want to go.
I have felt nervous before but now I can take charge of the moment, fully immerse myself in it be excited by it, not scared away.
How do you deal with them?
Face your fear because your goal demands it!
I have worked with sports psychologists, read the Chimp Management book, listened to countless podcasts on mindfulness and learnt from the most incredible, successful people.
I have learnt to feel inspired, connected, engaged and effortless, like anything is possible. That’s how I want to live my life, so that’s where I put my energies, not feeding the negative emotions or doubts.
Your Top Tip
Immerse yourself in the unknown, get excited about being present and fully engaged. Explore all you can be!
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
There are so many incredible dressage horses out there and I would love to know what they felt like to ride, but for me it would be a dream to ride Milton! He was on posters on my wall as a kid and I still love riding a cheeky jump, so to feel that effortless flying would be a dream!
Who is your equestrian hero?
I am inspired by those riders who have brought on horses that maybe weren’t the most conventional or straightforward. Carl Hester is a master at this. I also love Ingrid Klimke for her all-round horsemanship and her ability to be at the top in more than one discipline.
If you could have 5 people to dinner, who would they be?
Stephen Fry, David Attenborough, Jonny Wilkinson, Carl Hester, and Dina Asher-Smith
Favourite colour horse
I love them all! Especially blacks and chestnuts
Favourite horse event
Fritzens in Austria. The CDI is held at the family Swarovski’s yard. Everything is covered in crystals and the mountain landscape is stunning!
I grew up in Asia, so my favourites are definitely Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisines
Favourite way to relax
Chilling out with my prince, my Jack Russel ‘Logan’. Or if time a beach holiday complete with scuba diving.
Finding Nemo and The Greatest Showman are my go-to feel good films!