Double Olympian on your Doorstep
Talk to the majority of equestrian athletes competing at the highest level and you will frequently hear stories of how they were literally born into the role, having been raised by a mother or father (or both) that rides – and been around horses all their lives.
Which makes the meteoric rise to success for Oxfordshire based international dressage rider and Olympian Emile Faurie all the more impressive.
Emile, who was originally raised in South Africa, didn’t put a foot in a stirrup until he was 15, although according to his mother, ever since he could talk all he spoke about was horses!
“Riding horses is the only thing I have ever wanted to do with my life. I even told my mother when I was a thirteen, having never seen a live horse that I was going to ride at the Olympics one day. I’ve always wanted to do it!”
His first riding lessons, a birthday present from his parents represented the catalyst for a glittering career as an international dressage rider.
Emile moved to England in 1980 and spent three years as a working pupil at the Talland School of Equitation. At the age of 20 he took up a position with the renowned Performance Sales International in Germany, helping to back and prepare youngsters for auction.
“PSI provided me with the opportunity to ride lots of different horses and I was lucky enough to get access to some brilliant training and glean valuable knowledge relating to how to recognise a young horse with potential – that’s where I really learned my craft” says Emile.
Upon his return to the UK, Emile took on a few rides and even turned his hand to a bit of eventing before he got his big break after being given the ride on a horse called Virtu.
The pair went on to win the individual bronze and team silver medals at the 1993 European Championships in addition to being British National Champions in 1993 and 1994.
Emile’s next team horse was Legrini who he trained from the age of four to International Grand Prix standard.
Emile’s first Olympic performance was on Legrini competing at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and the partnership continued with the 1997 European Championships and the 1998 World Championships.
But it was perhaps his little horse Rascher Hopes that proved Emile’s immense skills as a professional rider and who the general public came to love. Rascher Hopes was a 16 hh ‘pony’ as Emile puts it (most international dressage horses stand much higher than 16 hh) that Emile bought for just £1700! But this little horse took Emile to the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 and the 2003 European Championships where they won a Bronze team medal.
So despite never having competed until the age of 26, once the ride with Virtu came along Emile managed to notch up one year of Grand Prix before being selected for the Olympics!
He has now represented Britain at two Olympic games, three World Equestrian Games and three European Championships and is officially known as the ‘quiet man of dressage’.
Emile still actively competes and trains from his base at Heath Farm in Milton-under-Wychwood where he continues to attract the loyal support of a number of high profile sponsors including Jacksons Equestrian, a leading British manufacturer and supplier of superior quality fencing and stables, that is proud to count Emile as a long standing member of its Professional Rider Team.
Emile is also a British Dressage judge and a much sought after coach for up and coming dressage stars. Most recently he was appointed as the official trainer to the Finnish Grand Prix rider squad up to 2016.
But alongside his natural talent as a professional rider and trainer, Emile continues to stand out from the crowd for being prepared to voice his opinion on key issues – and then take the relevant action to address those concerns.
In 2006, Emile set up his own charity, The Emile Faurie Foundation that funds disadvantaged children living in inner cities and remote areas of the UK to help them experience the joy and benefits of horsemanship. “It’s something I just decided I wanted to do. I’d probably had a pint too many one night. I spoke to someone who had a lot to do with a similar scheme in Sweden – in Sweden, riding is government subsidized, and in Sweden they have the lowest teenage pregnancies, the lowest teenage crime. It inspired me.
“Riding in England has such an enormous history, and riding schools used to be the focal point of society. With government changes, riding schools are struggling and they are closing down every day because they can’t keep up with ridiculous business rates on indoor schools, insurance policies, crazy health and safety rules – not that health and safety are wrong but with horses you get to a point where it has to be realistic.”
“I decided one night to do something, and basically what we do, is go through the schools. It has entirely developed by word of mouth; the charity now funds over 35 school and youth projects across the UK. This enables hundreds of children to not only derive considerable pleasure from riding and being around horses, but also helps them cultivate core life skills such as self-confidence, responsibility and discipline. From London to Scotland, the foundation identifies BHS riding centres to deliver professional and structured riding tuition to the children.
“So far with the charity’s help 9,000 young people have been able to participate in a sport that would previously have been totally out of bounds to them.”
In 2010, Emile once again acted on his instincts and called for improved rider safety following the injuries of several dressage riders. Emile introduced a ‘no hat, no ride’ rule for riders at his yard which was welcomed by the FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale – the international governing body for all Olympic equestrian disciplines) who had previously issued a recommendation for dressage riders to wear protective headgear while training and warming up at competitions – advice which, was largely ignored by the dressage community.
And what lies ahead for Emile?
The hunger to compete is still very much alive and with the right horse, Emile would like to be considered as a possible contender for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Will he make it an Olympic hat trick?
Watch this space...