Harry Charles Ph. ©Sunshine Tour/Moises Basallote
One couldn’t ask for a better result in your first attempt at a CSI4* Grand Prix than to win. For an ambitious young rider like Great Britain’s Harry Charles, it’s a huge confidence boost on a journey to a successful career.
Charles, 18, won the 1.55m CSI4* Grand Prix at the XXIV Sunshine Tour at Dehesa Montenmedio in Vejer de la Frontera, Cádiz, Spain on March 12, topping a 46-horse class and besting ten other pairs in the jump off with a speedy 33.02 second round.
“It was awesome to win a Grand Prix at the 4* level at my first attempt, especially on Controe as he’s come up with me through all the 2* and 3* shows,” Harry says.
Harry describes Controe (Wender R x Tasolga), an 11-year-old KWPN owned by his father, Peter Charles, as “one of a kind.” Competed through the CCI2* level of eventing by countrywoman Laura Collett as a young horse, Controe displayed a particular aptitude for jumping but less of an interest in dressage.
“When we bought him he’d only jumped up to 1.30m and he was originally for my little sister Sienna for the Children on Horses [League], but she was tiny at the time and he used to get quite hot, so luckily my dad gave him to me to ride,” Harry says.
Within a few months of the start of their partnership, Harry and Controe began collecting wins, including Harry’s first victory in a ranking class (a CSI4* at the 2017 Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show). In their first year competing together, Harry catapulted into the top 250 of the Longines FEI Jumping Standings. “A lot of that I owe to Controe.”
“When I look back at videos of Controe from two years ago, it’s amazing to see how much his technique has changed and developed as he’s progressed to jumping the bigger tracks. Especially as he’s a small horse, but his size doesn’t matter as he has a huge heart and amazing scope for a little guy. So for him to win a Grand Prix as big as this one was really special for me and everyone involved with him.”
It helps, of course, to be partnered with a great horse who has the talent, trainability, and competitive drive to win. However, Harry’s father attributes his son’s success to more than the animal under him.
“Harry is incredibly talented and it’s a pleasure for me to see him become the sportsman and competitor he is. He has a strong bond with the horses which is enabling him to produce the results,” Peter says.
Peter himself finished third in the Grand Prix with his 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse ABC Quantum Cruise (OBOS Quality x Ardnehue Diamond Cruiser) having posted a time of 33.91 seconds. He says he “doesn’t mind at all” being beaten by his son.
“He’s the next generation and as long as he continues to enjoy it first and foremost and wants to do it, I will always support him. It made me very proud when he won the 4* Grand Prix. He works very hard for it,” Peter says.
When asked about how he feels about competing against his father, Harry says, “When I first started jumping against Dad a few years ago I used to think it was really strange (in a good way), but now it’s so normal. When we’re in the same class I don’t really see it as I’m against my dad as when we’re jumping we’re more like teammates because all our horses are owned by him. Most importantly we’re both riding for the same end goal.”
He added, “But it’s still cool to beat him!”
Harry and Controe have maintained a perfect jumping record in the FEI classes at Sunshine Tour and picked up several other good placings including second in a 1.45m CSI2* Table A and fourth and sixth in 1.50m CSI3* and 1.45m CSI3* Table A classes, respectfully. Harry has stayed busy with his other rides as well.
“It’s my first time at the Sunshine Tour and it’s pretty impressive. There are so many arenas, so you have plenty of space to work the horses. For me this is a really important aspect that is often overlooked,” Harry says. “As a young rider it can be quite hard to get into the bigger shows but you get an amazing opportunity to jump the 4* classes against some of the best in the business which is pretty cool. You can also learn loads from them especially watching them warm-up and exercises their horses.”
“I’ve had a great show so far. All the horses have jumped super. Now hopefully the year keeps going as well as it has started!”