World #1 Scott Brash, 29, was born in Scotland and was bitten by the horse bug at the age of seven. In 2012 he was a member of the gold medal-winning British team at the London Olympics, riding Hello Santos, the 13-year-old Belgian Sport Horse owned Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham on which he has had incredible success over the past few years. Scott was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by Her Majesty the Queen following the Olympic victory. His impressive list of accomplishments includes winning team gold in the 2013 European Championships and finishing third in the FEI World Cup™ Final in Lyon (FRA) in 2014. He has earned the title of Longines Global Champions Tour Champion twice, becoming the youngest rider to top the tour in 2013 and the first rider ever to win three LGCT Grand Prix in the same season in 2014.
How did you get started with horses?
My dad worked in a racing yard for a while and then owned a livery yard before my sister and I were born. He moved to Scotland and started his building business and when I was seven he gave my sister Lea and me a pony to share. I guess he thought it would be a good thing for us to do … and it kept us off the streets (he laughs). Then we got a pony each and joined the Pony Club.
Can you identify a turning point in your career when you realized you could earn a living doing this?
I remember watching the World Cup Finals on TV and Rodrigo and Baloubet and John Whitaker and Milton and I really wanted to be them. I thought it was nearly impossible to achieve, but fortunately I always wanted to do things better. At 17, I left school and went to work for other people before returning home and setting up on my own. I was lucky Dad had all the facilities. I struggled at first, but then with a few results I started building a name and people started sending me horses. Certainly, getting selected for the British team and then meeting the Harrises were significant milestones.
Were sacrifices made along the way?
You have to be a bit selfish to do this job. The horses come first before everyone and everything.
Can you describe your daily routine?
When I am at home, the day starts at 7.30 when the horses are fed, and then I will start riding an hour later. I don’t really have a daily ‘routine,’ because it varies so much depending on where my horses are. There’s a lot of travelling involved in going to shows. There are seven in the string, but two or three might be on their way back from a show, for example.
Seven is the optimal number for me. It allows me enough time and focus for each horse. I cut down a lot on teaching last year because I am away so much competing, but I hope to do more teaching once we move to my new yard in the south of England this spring. At the moment it takes us 10 hours to get to Europe from my base in Scotland (near Edinburgh), but from the new place it’ll take one hour and 45 minutes. It will be so much better for the horses and for all of us.
How did you come together with your owners Lord and Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham?
It was just after the World Cup show in Toronto [Royal Horse Show] in 2011. I won the qualifier with Bon Ami. When I got home I had a call from the Harrises, who wanted to buy me a horse (Hello Sanctos) for the Olympics. All they wanted was a gold medal in London. After that they asked me what I wanted and I told them I wanted to be number one in the world. They let me do that and now have six horses with me.
How involved are your owners in your decisions over where and when you compete?
They are absolutely brilliant owners, fantastic. They trust me 100% and leave me to decide how often the horses compete and when they have a break. They allow me to get on with my job. We speak every day. I consider them part of the family.
Horsepower aside, is there another ingredient that gives you the edge? Like that ice-cold blood they say you have?
Ha! Yes, they say that. All I can say is that it’s quite an easy thing for me to ride in front of a thousand people. But ask me to talk in front of 100 people and I would not find that easy. I think to be successful you have to be hard-working and dedicated and have a great support team. Horses are 24/7.
You’ve won loads of money in the past couple of years. How important is that to you?
(He laughs) It’s very important to me now I’ve bought a new yard and I’m in debt! I’d much rather be poor at the top of the sport than wealthy and not have achieved my ambitions.
You famously said in London that you hoped the gold medal might help your pulling power with the ladies … has it?
I have lived to regret saying that! I have a great girlfriend, Hannah; she works with me and is very understanding.
How would you or your friends describe your character?
I think they’d say I was annoyingly laid back. I am not the stressy type. I don’t get worked up about stuff.
If life hadn’t taken you where it has, would you have had another profession?
I was a typical young lad and loved football. If I hadn’t gone show jumping maybe I would have stuck at it. I would definitely have been in something sport-related.
Where is your favorite place in the world?
Home. My schedule is so hectic, it seems I’m in a different country and in a different hotel room every week, so it’s really nice to come home and wake up in my own bed. It’s absolutely beautiful here, especially in the summer.
Where would you most like to go that you haven’t been?
South Africa. I would really like to see all the wildlife.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
If Hello Sanctos was a human, what sort of person would he be?
He is very clever and very independent. He’s quite happy to be on his own. He knows what he wants and he knows he’s good; he’s king of the stable, that’s for sure.