Annabel Carthy wants to banish the perception of equestrian as an upper-class sport. The Wilmslow star is currently on an intensive 12-week training course with former world champion Andrew Nicholson in Marlborough, having enjoyed searing success on the international stage since 2018.
Equestrian is a sport many perceive to be laced with elitism and confined to a specific demographic – but Annabel has a message for aspiring young riders everywhere.
“Equestrianism is considered very elite, but there’s a lot going on to try and change that,” said Annabel, 20, who is financially supported by GVC Holdings and SportsAid through the Pitching In initiative.
“People are setting up riding schools on brownfield sites in the centre of London and major cities to try and use horses to help people in disadvantaged situations. That hopefully means if you want it enough, you can do it from any background – you just have to break down the stigma that you need to be wealthy.
“The sport has shaped me a lot – it’s about two hearts. When you can communicate with such a talented creature, that is unlike anything you would ever get from a team-mate.”
Annabel is currently riding under Andrew's auspices in Wiltshire, who stormed to World Championship gold in 1990 and captured a hat-trick of Olympic medals between 1992 and 2012. That experience makes Annabel ‘starstruck’ every day – but she’s determined to follow in the 59-year-old's glittering riding footsteps.
“I’ve always looked up to Andrew which is why being here is still surreal,” added Annabel, who is treading the same path as Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sir Mo Farah and Dina Asher-Smith in receiving SportsAid support.
“I’m still starstruck six weeks in every time I see him - I’m trotting around and he’s on one of his horses and I’m like ‘wow, this is crazy!’
“The Olympics is everybody’s dream, but there are so many other highlights along the way that I’d take those as well!”
GVC announced a three-year partnership with SportsAid in 2019 to help young talented athletes, just like Annabel, realise their potential and pursue their sporting ambitions.
The investment provides funding for training, travel and equipment, and allows athletes to access mentoring by Olympians and Paralympians on topics such as nutrition, media and sports psychology.
“The interview advice SportsAid provides is really important – I’ve learned some skills to be more confident and think about what I say more," said Annabel. “With horses, you have to talk to owners, and if you can talk well to someone about you and your passion it’s going to make them a lot more likely to support you.
“And the funding has enabled me to come here [training course] and get the absolute maximum out of the experience - I’ve not got to worry about money, and I can take everything I can from it.”
GVC is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. Please visit gvc-plc.com to find out more.