This week I’m chatting with British international dressage rider Harriette Williams. Based in Newmarket, where she runs her own training and competition stables, Harriette has competed internationally from a young age and has enjoyed considerable success at Small Tour recently. Read on to learn more about Harriette, her ambitions, and top tips for success
Tell us about you and your horses
I’m Harriette, I am twenty-seven years old and live in Newmarket, Suffolk where I run my own training/competition stables alongside a small breeding program. I have competed internationally from ponies, young riders and now as a senior up to small tour level. My current top horse is Creto, she is a 13-year-old black mare I have owned since she was 7 years old, she is known as the Queen of the yard and has been very successful at Small Tour level over the last two years. For the last two years I have also been fortunate enough to ride Winwood (Woody) owned by Lisa Fenn who at 15 years old continues to progress in his training and is aiming for PSG. I was also lucky enough recently to get the ride on pocket rocket Ferdinand X (Ferdie) who is a 6 yr old gelding, a very exciting horse for the future owned by Pim Pichaironarongsongkram.
How did your horses come into your life?
Both my parents were horsey, my dad was in the household cavalry and qualified to be a farrier while in the army and my Mum grew up on a dairy farm. It was inevitable I would get the horse bug but much to my dad’s disappointment I fell in love with dressage and not show jumping.
When and where do you ride?
I am lucky enough to have my horses at home in Newmarket, my family and I moved here 5 years ago and have slowly been building up the facilities and business as and when we can. My day starts at 5:30 every morning feeding and turning out the horses, then we get everyone mucked out, some mornings I have staff to help with the yard duties which means I can start getting horses worked earlier. My afternoons then tend to be spent teaching.
How did you start riding?
I was sat on a pony before I could walk, I believe. As a young child I had a serious fear of dogs, but horses were not a problem and the early days were spent riding bareback on our Shetland ‘Brambles’ with my older brothers.
What you and your horses currently working on?
To be better! Creto is very established at small tour now and we are playing with the Grand Prix work, I’m always very aware each horse has their limit so at the moment we are keeping this level of work fun and low pressure and will see how we go. Woody is aiming towards PSG, it would be a real dream come true for both his owner and I to achieve this as Woody has come to this level of work later in life. Ferdie is still pretty new to me so we are getting to know each other and working on his lateral work and changes- all being well I’d like to aim him for the 7 Yr old classes next year.
What do you love about riding?
Nothing else matters when you’re in the saddle, you could say it’s a very expensive form of therapy for me. I love the process of training a horse through the levels and how they change and develop over time. Every horse’s journey is different.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
Of course, like any dressage rider I want to aim to be successful at GP but my main aim in life is to produce happy athletes that are the best version of themselves that they can be, not all horses are capable of getting to the top but training them to the best of their ability is most rewarding to me. I have now bred a few horses of my own and it’s going to be extra special to train these horses that I have brought into this world through the levels and hopefully a few will make the top.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
I think everyone has had to deal with nerves at some point in their riding. For me now, I don’t get too nervous when competing, but I am always a bit more nervous riding horses for owners, I always want to do the best job I can and not let the team down. I will admit I’m not the bravest rider in the world and of course we’ve all had horses come into our lives that have made us feel nervous and, in those moments, it’s too easy to feel like you’re just not good enough but we all have our limitations and have to find our own ways through issues- many roads lead to Rome.
How do you deal with them?
Stay focused on your own small achievable goals, if you’ve lost your confidence in your horse or riding, take a step back, find a happy place doing something you’re comfortable with and then chip away at the weaker areas. Competition wise for me my preparation is what keeps me in focus, I have a timetable for the day and I stick to it, this gives you structure which gives you less time to worry. Plus, never be too proud to ask for help!
Do you have any rituals before competing?
While I was on ponies I always had ‘lucky’ GB socks but after one too many bad results I gave up on that idea and made my own luck by just giving the best I could, you cannot do any more than that.
What is the best piece of advice that you have ever been given?
That being talented is pointless if you do not work hard.
Your Top Tip
Never give up on your dreams and stay true to what you believe in. I spent so long growing up on difficult ponies that I would often finish bottom of the class. Watching your friends take home top placings year after year like it was all so easy and I thought that I would never get that day, that I would never be good enough but if you keep training and keep working on being a better version of yourself and listen to every bit of advice people give you (sometimes it might not be relevant at the time but those tools in your box will come in handy one day). Then good things will come your way.
Down the Centre Line
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
There would be a few but who wouldn’t want to sit on Glamourdales canter!
Who is your equestrian hero?
Catherine Dufour, Jessica Von Bredow
If you could have 5 people to dinner, who would they be?
My family including those who left us far too soon.
Favourite colour horse?
Liver Chestnut or black- dark and shiny basically
Favourite horse event?
Anyone that knows me will appreciate this is a hard one as I love food a lot. Savoury would have to be a baked camembert with onion chutney and hot bread. Sweet…. homemade cheesecake.
Favourite way to relax?
Do not get much time to do this but a good homemade meal and watching a film with my partner after a crazy busy week means a lot to me. (Even if I do fall asleep before the end every time)
Still living in my youth…Spirit if you haven’t watched it you need to.
If you enjoyed meeting Harriette you might like to view more dressage rider “chatting with” interviews here You can keep up with Harriette’s progress and check out her instagram page here