BARNSLEY’S Donald Whitaker has hailed the shining example of his family members as he bids to become the next Whitaker to make giant strides in the show- jumping sphere.
Whitaker savoured his career high at HOYS in October when landing the Tagg Puissance competition on Quick Laura AS Z as part of a four-way tie.
The 22-year-old is now preparing to cheer uncles Michael and John plus cousins Robert and William on the main stage at Olympia next week – and rising star Donald says there is no better motivation to succeed.
The Barnsley star also says there are even more Whitakers bubbling away beneath the surface with younger cousins James and Jack also continuing to work their way up the rankings.
Donald told The Yorkshire Post: “When people ask ‘who do you look up to?’ I don’t have to go any further than my family. It’s fantastic.
“Obviously, I have got Michael, I’ve got my dad, I’ve got Ellen, Joe, John, my brother, Louise – all of them. It’s brilliant to be a part of it and to do what they do really.
“Underneath me there’s my younger cousin who is the younger brother of Will and George so underneath me there’s Jim and Michael’s son Jack, who is starting to win as well. There’s still more yet!”
John, Michael, Robert and William will be joined by six other British riders on the main stage at Olympia next week led by Scott Brash.
Ben Maher, Guy Williams, Laura Renwick, Spencer Roe and Tim Gredley will also be competing and Donald himself is targeting a rapid rise up the rankings in 2015 with a week’s place at HOYS his immediate ambition.
Donald’s best horse – the Graham Ward-owned Feightling – has recently returned from injury and finished a fantastic third last weekend on his step up to Grand Prix level at Arena UK in Grantham with a starting height of 1.40m. Donald added: “I think it’s the top 15 in the (British) rankings that go through to the full week at HOYS so I hope I can just get going and see what I can do.
“For me, winning the Puissance ranked right up there really as I haven’t done a lot.
“I’ve had a few horses that I have been trying to produce and I had a good spell last year when I won the Young Riders at SCOPE with Feightling, who then went off with a little injury so I’ve not had anything for a while. But Antonio – my sister Ellen’s boyfriend – gave me the ride on Quick Laura AS Z and it’s come good.
“Feightling qualified for HOYS last year for the Grade C and he had one down in that and then he got injured but he’s a really nice horse.
“I was thrilled with the way he coped with the bigger tracks at Grantham last weekend and I’m very excited for this horse’s future. The aim now is just to keep going and to enjoy it a bit more. I’ve got my best horse coming back and hopefully it can only get better.”