With all the talk going on these last few weeks around the topics of elitism in and accessibility to the sport of show jumping, meeting a professional such as Sam Hutton is a breath of fresh air. It’s true that this sport is getting harder to break into at the top, and and it’s true that the path requires more dedication and effort than ever, just to get a foot in the door at the middle.
But it’s not impossible, not yet. Last week I sat down with 28-year-old Hutton, of Great Britain, on a bench facing the schooling paddock at CHIO Aachen. It’s the epicenter of everything that is show jumping and a place that every rider dreams of tacking up for. Did Hutton, ever believe that he would one day be sitting on that bench, not as a spectator, but as a team rider?
Not quite. “Di [Lampard] gave me a ring about a month ago and said, ‘how do you fancy going to Aachen?’ And I was like, hell yeah!” Hutton exclaimed. “It was a surprise. It feel pretty amazing. But I knew this show would really suit my horse because he likes really big grass arenas, and Di knew that.”
That Hutton has the ride on Happydam, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood (Quidam de Revel x Narcos II), is in itself the product of his dedication to his job. Hutton is the rider for AS Sport Horses in Antwerp, Belgium, owned by Egypt’s Abdel Said. Hutton and Said have worked together for two and a half years in the sales, training and coaching yard, and before that, Hutton earned his stripes for two years at Stal Tops in The Netherlands.
“I left school when I was 17, and worked for Tony Newbury in the United Kingdom for seven years. That’s basically where I learned my first trade,” Hutton explains. “Then I left and got a job with Jan Tops. That was an incredible experience. I had some really nice horses when I was there, and did some really nice shows.”
Clearly, Hutton is well-versed in putting himself in the right positions to prove himself. Being based in Europe to advance his career has long been a given; he even owns a house close to Valkenswaard, Holland, and commutes to Said’s stable nearly an hour away every day. But it’s a lot shorter trip than coming over from the U.K.
“Before I left school, I knew I wanted to do this,” Hutton said. “Basically, day to day is riding horses, helping the clients, training them—we have some really good clients. They’re Abdel’s clients that I help train, but we work together on that. We are always trying horses and trying to find the next best ones. It’s busy but it’s a good operation. It runs very well and there are a lot of good people.”
“I feel like I’ve come away and I’ve learned a lot, and it’s been a great experience.”
And there are a lot of good moments, too, such as when Hutton got that call to represent Great Britain for the first time last year at CSIO5* Gijon. Owned by clients of AS Stables, Hutton got the ride on Happydam last year, and stepped up with a clear round over a Nations Cup track. He had four horses to compete at Aachen, evident of a top quality string of young up and comers, including ERP Van www.olland.biz, an 8-year-old that qualified for the Sparkassen Youngsters Cup Finale. And while Hutton didn’t qualify for the Grand Prix of Aachen this year, with two down in the last qualifier, he earned the right to have chills when he rode through the ingate at Aachen for the first time, and enjoyed every minute of jumping around on such hallowed ground.
“Just when you walk in there and hear the crowd go, you get goosepimples, because everyone is going wild and it’s pretty insane,’ Hutton said. “We [in the UK] have Hickstead and Olympia, but Aachen is crazy. I feel like I’ve come away and I’ve learned a lot, and it’s been a great experience.”
For now, it’s back to the daily routine of being a professional rider in Europe, Hutton is optimistically crossing his fingers to receive a call-up to Calgary in September.
“Sam Hutton is a great team player, he has ridden solidly this week, and accumulating a nice string of horses,” said chef d’ equipe Lampard when asked about Hutton. “He’s a great rider to have around on the team, and absolutely a contender for the future.”
With that, anything is possible going forward. It might be a tough haul to reach the top of the sport, but with the combination of a supportive chef d’equipe and a horse that can jump the sticks, Hutton is the latest young professional to see it out there on the horizon.