Ashley Boyce on riding for Brendon Stud and life as a professional rider
Becoming a professional rider takes hard work, dedication, skill, and (a lot of) patience. Riding as a career goes beyond the highs of winning a big class or event, as there will be as many challenges to face too. Competition is stiff, and only the best and most dedicated will prosper. However, with all this said, it’s a realistic goal for those who strive to achieve their ambitions.
In this interview, showjumper Ashley Boyce speaks to Phoebe Oliver about her time as a professional rider for Brendon Stud to give insight into the process behind achieving and sustaining success, alongside what her commitment to the profession looks like.
Ashley, how long have you been a showjumper, and how did you come to ride for Brendon Stud?
I’ve been an equestrian all my life, and my passion for showjumping started when I was around 10 years old. As a child, I regularly participated in local showjumping competitions but I started freelancing for Brendon stud as a rider in June this year. However, I’ve had the privilege of Shirley Light’s support at Brendon Stud for over two decades, dating back to my first horse purchase from the stud in 2002. I’ve consistently ridden for the stud, not only stepping in as a rider when needed but also in an exercising role.
What kinds of horses do you handle for Shirley, and how much time do you spend with them before competing?
I predominantly work with young horses, typically in the 4 to 6-year-old range. I have a genuine passion for working with these young talents as it’s incredibly fulfilling. Ideally, I like to spend about a week or so getting acquainted with a horse before entering them into competition. However, in a recent instance at Hickstead in July the Stud’s regular rider, Harriet, had a fall and sustained injuries on the first day of the competition which meant I had to step in and compete with some of the horses for the remainder of the show, including some I had never ridden before until the show itself – which got the butterflies going!
Why did you choose Brendon Stud as your riding base, and what are your primary responsibilities there?
I wouldn’t trade Brendon Stud for any other equestrian yard. The horses at the stud possess exceptional talent, and the team of dedicated staff working under Shirley’s guidance are tremendously supportive. Being a part of this team is a wonderful experience, and I’m enjoying considerable success. It’s not just a job; it’s a passion and all the horses, including my own, continue to improve with each show we attend.
Do you have any particular horses you’ve grown attached to and wish to keep riding?
Certainly, there is one horse that has captured my heart—Azure, also known as Ashent Go Ballistic, a remarkable 5-year-old stallion. I felt an instant connection with him during our first ride, so much so that I put my own mare in foal with him this year.
Considering you also own your own horses, how many horses do you find yourself riding during major competitions?
Recently, I’ve been responsible for riding anywhere from 5 to 10 horses during these major competitions. With the longer, multi-day shows, it’s possible to arrange their schedules so that they don’t all compete on the same days. This planning makes the workload more manageable than it may seem at first glance.
Could you share some of your recent achievements in showjumping?
Of course, I’ve had some notable successes recently. I secured a victory and a 5th place finish in the 6-year-old qualifier at Hickstead with Noble Tropicana and Warrior Special, respectively. All five of the young horses I work with qualified to compete in the main arena for the young horse championships. Azure also claimed a victory in a newcomers event a few weeks ago and one of the most significant achievements for me this season was a 6th place finish in the British Speed Derby at Hickstead riding Summerbridge Lulu – this horse just goes from strength to strength.
Would you recommend a career in showjumping to young aspiring riders who may not have the financial resources to acquire top competition horses themselves?
Absolutely, without a doubt. By joining a prominent establishment like Brendon Stud, aspiring riders can gain invaluable experience and receive support while working with a diverse range of world-class horses, from young prospects to those competing at the grand-prix level. It’s a pathway to growth and achievement in the sport, regardless of financial constraints.