Woodhead delighted to step out 
on her own

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hOLLY wOODHEAD grew up as a regular on the Yorkshire eventing circuit, with trips to Bishop Burton, Aske and Richmond commonplace from her Grimsby base.

Such visits will no longer be on the agenda from her new surroundings near Swindon.

But there is no hiding the 21-year-old’s affinity for Yorkshire with Woodhead dreaming of developing a powerful yard up north after mastering eventing from Marlborough.

Woodhead took individual silver and team bronze at last year’s Young Rider European Eventing Championships in Portugal, and equine success runs in the family with older sister Amy about to bid for Grand Prix glory in dressage.

Both have clearly inherited the successful genes carried by parents Ian – a GB trainer – and Tracy – shortlisted for the Sydney Olympic Games in dressage.

While both sisters have moved south in a bid to further their careers, Woodhead admits home is very much where the heart is.

Sister Amy is continuing to blossom with Carl Hester while younger sibling Holly has been gaining valuable experience with Wiltshire-based eventing legend Sir Mark Todd, but is now going it alone having recently set up her own yard in nearby Marlborough.

DHI Lupison – owned by Woodhead’s father Ian and step mother Heidi – was principally responsible for last year’s success story, but the rider is now hoping to attract new owners and horses by going it alone.

GI Master Caster, formerly with Chris King, is the first high-profile recruit to her Marlborough yard but the eventing ropes were learned in Yorkshire and most consider Woodhead to be from York.

She is, in fact, from Grimsby where the family’s livery yard is based, for all that father Ian now lives in Flaxton.

But, either way, Woodhead says her northern roots will never be forgotten, three years after relocating down south to gain eventing work experience upon leaving Tollbar Academy.

“I’m a Grimsby girl and Grimsby is still home for me where we have a livery yard, a big yard that is family run,” Woodhead told The Yorkshire Post.

“But everyone just knows me as being from York and it’s as close as you get to Grimsby really. I don’t really like everyone knowing I’m from Grimsby anyway.

“But really I love it – that’s my home and one day, hopefully, I’d love to go back and set up something there if I can find more owners and have the horses and stuff. That would be ideal because we have got all the facilities in the world.

“When I left school, my dad sent me away to work for various event riders and this year I thought it would be a good time to have a go at it on my own. Last year I just had the one horse really whereas this year I am going to make more of a go of it as a business and have a string of horses. It’s quite a big step for me.”

This step comes with Woodhead already ranked 36th in Britain and 180th in the world despite having only turned 21 earlier this month.

Long-term boyfriend Tom McEwen, who is also based in Wiltshire, is ranked 20th in Britain and 71st in the world.

And Woodhead is also delighted to see her sister rapidly climbing the dressage ladder.

“We do two totally different disciplines which is only really just getting noticed,” she said, “having two sisters doing two different events at a high level.”

Expect both to scale new heights in 2015 – though it is heights of a different kind that will be conquered this weekend.

The eventer and a group of friends are flying out from Luton to Switzerland for a skiing trip tomorrow – and for Woodhead the adventure will, hopefully, be more successful than her previous journey to the Swiss slopes in 2012.

She revealed: “Last time I went I snapped my cruciate ligament so I couldn’t ride for a whole year.

“I was too busy laughing at my sister going in front of me and I forgot to turn so I’ll try and not ski off a cliff this time. I’ll just try and go a bit slower, but that won’t be easy.

“With me it’s the faster the better.”