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‘I’m a closet cowboy’: 9 things you never knew about newly crowned British national champion Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes and Classic Briolinca finish their grand prix at the World Dressage Championships 2022
Gareth HUGHES (GBR) riding Classic Briolinca during the Grand Prix for the Blue Hors FEI World Dressage Team Championship at the ECCO FEI World Championships in Herning in Denmark between 6th - 14th August 2022

British rider Gareth Hughes is a familiar name in the world of dressage. After all, he was the British team alternate at the Tokyo Olympics, won European team silver in 2021 and world team silver a year later, as well as being crowned British national champion in 2022.

But read on find out a few things about him you may not have known…

1. Gareth Hughes almost didn’t become a dressage rider

Although Gareth was born in the UK, he grew up in Australia, near Brisbane. As a teenager he mostly showed Arabian horses and did western riding, though he admits he always had an obsession with dressage.

“I can still crack a stock whip, cook a Barbie and say ‘g’day’,” he confirms. “If I hadn’t been a dressage rider I’d have become a reiner — when I first came back to Britain I was umming and aahing about which route to go down.”

2. He came close to riding for Australia

He’s now one of Britain’s top riders and trainers, and won team medals at the European Championships in 2013 and World Equestrian Games in 2014, but during the early years of his dressage career he intended to ride for Australia.

“I have a British passport, but I grew up in Australia and it felt like home,” explains Gareth, who admits he was asked to switch nationalities again before London 2012. “But although I had residency there, I never took out Australian citizenship. I would have had to move back there to get an Australian passport, but by then my business was already established over here, so I couldn’t.”

3. He still considers himself a ‘closet cowboy’

“I’ve still got a western hat and I like to dress up as a cowboy,” laughs Gareth. “I went to the world rodeo championships in Vegas a few years ago with friends and we properly cowboy-ed it up!

“I still think that one day maybe I will go back to doing that. But dressage is what I do right now and I love it.”

4. Individual medals have never been his aim

While proud to have ridden on a number of teams for Britain, and always keen to help bring home team medals from championships, Gareth reveals that individual medals have never been his target.

“I have no ambition for individual medals, because I never thought I was good enough, to be honest,” he says. “All I’ve wanted is to have a horse who is world-class, mostly to prove to myself that I can do it.”

5. He’s in high demand as a trainer

As well as a rider, Gareth is also a successful and sought-after trainer, and has been to championships under various flags in a coaching role. Among his many roles, he has been dressage trainer for the Australian event team, and a technical advisor for the Swiss dressage team.

6. He considers himself an introvert

“If I was in a band I’d be the bass guitarist, not the lead singer,” reasons Gareth, who compares the dynamics of a championship team to that of a band. “I’m quite introverted and I actually hate talking in public, and riding in public, but my job requires it.”

7. Mowing the lawn makes him happy

Medals and money are not what drives Gareth.

“I’m not money orientated and I feel very fulfilled: I have a beautiful daughter who I’m very proud of, a nice property — I love coming home and driving through the gates into our place. I love mowing the lawn!” he reveals.

8. He has plenty of interests outside horses

Just as spending time with home with his family always puts a smile on Gareth’s face, he also enjoys a number of activities that have nothing to do with horses, from playing guitar – something he took up during lockdown – to getting out and about on his Harley Davidson motorbike.

9. He takes an interest in other sports — including reining

“I watch a lot of other sports and I admire other sportsmen’s attitudes, such as Roger Federer and Andy Murray in tennis, and Michael Phelps in swimming,” says Gareth, who adds that he also follows the sport of reining. “For sportspeople the biggest thing is to have respect for your sport and for the people within your sport.”

You may also be interested in…

Don’t miss the 22 September issue of Horse & Hound, which contains 10 pages of reports from the National Dressage Championships, including how British rider Gareth Hughes won the overall national title

Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

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