British show jumping is the best it’s ever been, with gold medals won at the Olympics and the European Championships and British riders Scott Brash and Ben Maher taking the top two positions in the World rankings.
But it was British female Laura Renwick who beat off some of the World’s best riders to take the Leading Rider of the Show award at the London International Horse Show at Olympia before Christmas, despite only riding at elite level for five years. The 38-year-old mother from Essex clinched the award by four points from Swedish Olympic silver-medallist Peder Fredricson.
Renwick’s consistent performance at Olympia was on a team of horses she trained from scratch. “I’ve had a few ups and downs this year and so to be Leading Rider has put me on a real high,” said Renwick, who has suffered the frustration of having several horses out of action at a time when she might have been considered for team selection.
If I had my time again I would have stuck at show jumping because it really is in my blood. That’s why I came back to it all these years later."
Renwick is married to former elite show jumper John Renwick, who gave up the sport in 2002 to focus on supporting his wife. She juggles competing all over the world with running the equestrian business and being a mother to young son, Jack.
Amazingly it wasn’t until after the birth of her son that she started to make a name for herself as a rider. For many women, having children can force competitive sport to the back seat. Quite the opposite has happened for Renwick, whose sporting career really started to take off after childbirth.
Introduced to horses by her mother, who owned a riding school, Renwick was successful in show jumping from the age of 11. Prophetically, she bought her first jumping pony from John, her future husband.
At the age of 18, she questioned whether she wanted to make a career out of it and gave up competing for several years. “I was lucky that my parents supported me up to 18 but then but then I had to go it alone. This sport is tough, especially for anyone starting out and trying to support themselves. At the time I thought I should try something else.”
In my blood
Her sabbatical included being a flight attendant for BA and living in Spain. “If I had my time again I would have stuck at show jumping because it really is in my blood. That’s why I came back to it all these years later.”
Renwick returned to the sport at the age of 25. She bought a young horse, which meant starting again from the beginning. Soon after, Renwick met her husband on the competition circuit. To begin with it was purely a business partnership but it later evolved into marriage and parenthood.
“We bought some young horses together and in the early days whilst John was still riding at the top international competitions, I was producing the young horses. These are the horses that I am still riding now so it’s all been a working progress, we’ve learnt together. I think that’s why I have such a strong bond with our horses; we know each other inside out.”
As well as her training skills and empathy with horses, Renwick is renowned for her fearless, competitive spirit.
A combination of skill, poise and style has garnered her sponsorship and she even took part in a risqué photography shoot to promote British show jumping. “It was a laugh and done to (raise) the sport’s profile, but I probably wouldn’t do anything like it again.”
My top horse Oz is more than capable. It’s just about hitting the form at the right time."
In order to stay in the game at this level, she and her husband have to be commercially minded. “We breed horses, train them and sell them, even some we would like to keep. John handles most of the business side of things now. He had a lot of injuries which is why I had to up my game and focus on competing.”
Her son Jack is more interested in football. According to Renwick, “he can ride but has no interest in competing. I enjoy taking him to football training and have told him to work hard at it so he can look after us in our old age.”
The future looks bright for Renwick, who has seven horses competing at top level, and she hopes to consolidate her performance next season and “just keep enjoying it”. Does she dare dream of future medals and team selection? “My top horse Oz is more than capable. It’s just about hitting the form at the right time.”
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