Modest, composed and unassuming, it’s no surprise to learn that Harrogate’s Hazel Towers was brought up to “go with the flow” and “see what happens.”
It speaks volumes then that the eventer is aiming for Badminton and Burghley.
Towers, 27, is one of Yorkshire’s most exciting young eventers who has made rapid progress in the last year.
Last June thrust the Harrogate rider into her first Bramham – also her first three-star event – with Towers and 10-year-old mare Simply Clover performing with enormous credit in finishing 30th in the CIC three-star won by William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning.
Two more three-star outings followed at Hartpury and Blenheim as part of a year that also saw eight-year-old mare and CCI two-star regular Simply Smart placed on the Team GB World Class Equine Pathway – aimed at nurturing riders to the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2018 World Equestrian Games.
And with seven-year-old gelding Ash already at Novice level, Towers admits her usual “go with the flow” approach has been replaced by a ‘go out and get ‘em strategy’ for 2015.
The eventer is now hopeful of competing both Simply Clover and Simply Smart at Bramham 2015, with the rapidly progressing rider seeing no reason why she cannot then compete at the highest level of all – at Badminton and Burghley CCI four-star.
Speaking over a warming cup of tea at her livery yard and home close to Harrogate’s Squinting Cat pub, Towers told The Yorkshire Post: “My mum’s a realist and I’ve always been brought up to not over-aim and to just go with the flow – to see what happens.
“So although I have always had in the back of my mind quite unrealistic targets in some people’s view – like Bramham and things – I have never wanted to over-commit too much because, with horses, things can always go wrong.
“But last year really opened my eyes to the potential and the fact that actually it can all happen and the only way I am going to get to Badminton and Burghley is if I start to aim towards them a bit more,” she said.
“I think I’m taking the mind-set now that you’ve got to aim high.
“I have got the horse power there now – three really, really good horses – and all three of them have got the potential to be four-star horses.
“I’ve got all the building blocks in place to be able to get to Badminton and Burghley and do the four stars that I have always wanted to do.”
Towers’s success has come from her humble Harrogate base and livery yard where she lives with Liverpudlian mum Helen and Yorkshireman mechanic dad Graham, although the eventer plans to build her own home at nearby Beckwithshaw where she went to primary school.
From there it was on to Harrogate Grammar School and Leeds Beckett University where Towers graduated with a first in business before becoming brand manager for Copgrove-based novelty umbrella company Blooming Brollies, owned by Nick Whone and his wife Mandy.
“My boss is amazing and it’s only because I have had a really good job that it’s allowed me to finance doing the sport,” admitted Hazel, who bought Simply Clover, through Ben Hobday, and Simply Smart as affordable three and four-year-olds.
Both horses are now being aimed at the top level of competition with their rider on the Team GB radar and slowly but surely getting used to competing alongside the sport’s household names.
“I feel like a very little fish in a very big ocean. It’s so belittling,” said Towers, whose younger sister Phoebe, 24, has competed at CCI one-star level.
“To be competing against the likes of Mark Todd, world champions in their own right, Oliver Townend and William Fox-Pitt, and to be regularly parked next to people like Zara Phillips, you kind of don’t feel like it’s true. But it is absolutely amazing.
“Sometimes I kind of have to stop and just go ‘okay, I’ve got this far,’ so even if I don’t go any further, just be competing against people like William Fox-Pitt – on the horses that he has done the Olympics with – to just be there is awesome.
“With regards to Team GB, I would love something like that to happen but I’m just going take every day as it comes and keep doing what I’m doing.
“It seems to be working.”
*Hazel is looking for sponsorship to help fulfil her dreams of getting to Badminton and Burghley. Hazel can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org