EQUESTRIAN: Membury move excites Harris
5:30am Thursday 30th January 2014 in Sport
Flora Harris and her string of event horses have become the latest residents at Membury Estate.
Previous incumbent Laura Collett had been based at the yard since 2009, but in November last year announced she had relocated to Windy Hollow Stables in Lambourn.
Harris officially moved in at Membury on January 1, having been introduced to owner Philip Walker by a mutual friend.
Walker was reportedly keen to bring in another young British rider.
Harris had been residing at Maizey Manor for the past nine months since moving down from Banbury and had no plans to move, but explained that it was too good an opportunity to miss.
She said: “I’m really lucky to be here – the whole place is fantastically run and kept by the landlord, and there’s a really lovely family feel. Grace (Walker’s daughter) has two competition horses here, and she’s a very talented rider so it’s great to be mentoring her.
“The location is really central – great access to events and venues. I don’t think you could be better placed, and it’s a really sociable place with so many other eventers based locally.”
The immaculate yard boasts enviable purpose built facilities set within 70 acres, including a 30m by 70m indoor arena, covered horse walker, hydrotherapy spa, solarium and all weather turnout paddock, all a stone’s throw from the internal stables, tack room and heated kitchen.
Harris looks poised for a successful 2014 season with such facilities at hand, and what she describes as “the best string of horses I’ve ever had”, three of whom have been selected for the World Class Equine Pathway, a scheme which affords them top class training as potential world championship contenders.
She added: “I now have three advanced horses, all of which I’ve had since they were babies so it’s really exciting. My aim now would be to establish consistent results at three-star as well as looking to expand my string. Longer term, I’ll be aiming towards Europeans and I know it’s a cliché and everybody says it, but I’d like to aim for Rio.”
Back in 2011, Harris made her Badminton debut with top horse Law choice who sadly passed away last February, but it was arguably her 2013 season that has been her most successful to date, and saw her UK ranking rise to 23rd. Harris clocked up wins at CIC two-star level at Barbury and a top ten CIC three star placing at Blenheim aboard the classy grey mare Amazing VIII, whilst Bayano was the best of the Brits finishing seventh at the world young horse championships at Le Lion.
Starting 2014 with a move to such a well equipped base is sure to have given Flora a welcome boost, and whilst the rider insists she did not move to Membury to become Philip Walker’s stable jockey, it does not go unnoticed that Collett’s previous rides Allora 3 and Noble Bestman (competitive at three and four-star level respectively) would currently be without a rider.
Harris reveals: “The Walkers have an impressive breeding programme here, currently with three broodmares and two youngsters.”
When asked whether she would be taking on the mantle of trainer for these horses, she added: “It’s not for me to say who would be riding them – they’re here, and obviously I’m here, but the decision about who their rider will be is entirely down to the owner.”
Harris is understandably reluctant to add to any speculation about her involvement with Walker’s horses, and prefers to position herself as a tennant and mentor to Grace. However, it does seem that Harris’ close proximity and experience would make her an ideal candidate, should the Walker’s need a rider to compete their horses at top level.