The international event rider on his busy schedule, memories of loading for his father and Macnab ambitions.
Things get quieter around mid-October for you what with the end of the eventing season – presumably you chose this career to fit in with the shooting season?
“Ha ha… quite right. Optimistically, we think of eventing as a summer sport but realistically we start training again in December and then we get busier the further through January and February we get; then we start competing again in early March. It’s nice to have a break and a change of scene, and staying with friends to shoot is as good as a holiday.”
Do you hunt a bit too?
“I do, I hunt one or two days a week with the Beaufort between October and mid January. That’s against, say, half a dozen days’ shooting all season. After that I try to be self-disciplined – it’s easy to kid yourself that a day’s hunting is work as you’re on a horse, or a day’s shooting is justified if it’s with owners or sponsors! Once we get into the New Year it’s not so easy to take days off, so I try to get as much as I can in before then.
“Having said that, we’re very lucky to spend a lot of time during the season in beautiful places, some of the most stunning parks around the country and in Europe. The people involved in eventing are often real countrymen; they might have farmed or hunted, or be in to point-to-pointing or racing and then they end up owning event horses. It’s not a sport that has been ‘sold out’ to money and our owners do it for the love of it and many have become great friends.”
Will you manage to give the guns an airing this season?
“I have a few dates coming up soon, mostly with friends and a couple with owners and sponsors. I have a very enjoyable day coming up at Mells with the crowd from Pol Roger, the champagne house, and then Cordings have a day in the Chalk Valley as well, which is great fun. I enjoy being involved with these companies, of course they’re both businesses but almost more than that, they’re timeless institutions and very keen about shooting!”
What was your highlight last season?
“I’m extremely lucky to have had a very enjoyable day with the Oppermans who own a couple of horses with me. They owned the horse I rode in the World Championships a couple of years ago and one of my best horses now. They have a shoot in Hampshire. It’s great sport but also such a fun day, always very light hearted and I get suitably mocked by my host who is a master sledger. It’s his way of getting me back for him having to accompany his wife all summer to watch eventing. One of the most memorable days I’ve had was shooting geese in Norfolk, which was unforgettable, almost a cross between stalking and shooting.”
Who introduced you to shooting?
“Both my parents’ families have always shot. As a boy I enjoyed loading for my father, and catching the cartridges as they were ejected, like a fielder in the slips. My brother shoots a lot, far more than I do; it’s something that we were lucky to grow up with.”
Your father was the late Richard Meade, our most successful British equestrian Olympian, can you remember any early shooting memories with him?
“I can distinctly remember my first day at a place called Elmore, near Berkeley in Gloucestershire. I must have been about 10 and was shooting with a .410, a proper old sort with hammers. The hammers were so stiff that my father had to lean over and cock them for me.”
Do you shoot with your father’s guns now?
“Well, actually, it was my grandfather’s; a Lang and Hussey. I’m sure one day I’ll have a discussion with my brother about what will happen to my father’s gun.”
Is there any shooting that you haven’t done yet that you would like to?
“I’d love to have a crack at a Macnab. Yes, I really fancy trying that one day.”
For more information, visit Harry Meade.