William Fox-Pitt, the leading English equestrian, on his Purdey 16 bore, the lure of the hill and “thundering invitations”.

Robert Cuthbert (RC): How has the first half of the year been for you, William?

William Fox-Pitt (W F-P): “All the horses came back in from their break during January but the competitions don’t really get going until March. The first big one was Rolex in Kentucky in April. I’ve been there a few times. We’ve been lucky to have a few trips over there with several horses. It’s part of the UK Sport and Lottery scheme to expose athletes to it which encourages owners to let me take their horses and compete in the US.”

RC: Are you exposed to other potential owners and sponsors over there?

W F-P: “Yes and no. I think sponsors and owners are quite nationality driven. All of my owners are based in the UK but my main sponsor is Jeep who are based in the US.

“It’s important for them that they have a presence in Kentucky so it’s great that I can go over there and compete. It works really well. I’m a UK ambassador for them and we’ve worked together for the past five years. Naturally, I drive one and with the horses they are fantastic for catering for all of our needs. And of course they come in pretty handy on shoot days too.”

RC: How many times do you usually get out with the gun each season?

W F-P: “Usually a couple of times at least. It’s not something I get a chance to do a lot of but it’s something I really do enjoy. It’s just a question of fitting it in with everything else I do, which is hard. The winter is my downtime but it’s also full of other things which I need to catch up on like teaching.”

RC: Do you find you can really switch off when you are shooting?

W F-P: “Yes, it’s just a fabulous day out. I have a fairly anti-social lifestyle and sometimes it’s great to be able to truly relax and socialise while enjoying the sport. It’s quite similar to eventing in that it takes you to some incredibly beautiful places and you have the joy of meeting interesting people. It’s such a great way of winding down. That said, I really could do with some more lessons! Not being a very good shot, I could do with a bit of help.”

RC: Who are your shooting buddies?

W F-P: “Shooting is a good way for us to catch up with local friends. I also like to shoot the odd day with eventing mates and old friends. It’s a mix of catching up, a good old natter with some old friends and meeting some new faces. For a lot of the year I’m on the road at competitions and you find yourself unavailable to do much else.”

RC: Where would you have your definitive shoot day?

W F-P: “Here in Dorset, I think. We had a lovely day with the Pitt Rivers family in Hinton St. Mary which is not too far from where I live. We had a great day, were very lucky with the weather and there were plenty of birds around.”

RC: Who introduced you to shooting?

W F-P: “My father really, he enjoyed his shooting; my brother is a keen shot too. It’s something we just always did at home in Kent as boys. I suppose my first shooting memories are of us boys in a clump of trees at home ambushing the pigeons in the evenings. Great days and it was a great way of learning.”

RC: What shotgun do you use?

W F-P: “I have my father’s old 16 bore, actually. It’s what I have and it’s what I use. It works for me. It’s a Purdey side-by-side, a really lovely old gun. It’s probably seen some better days but it does me well. It’s perfect for the amount of shooting I do.”

RC: Did you fight your brother for it?

W F-P: “No, luckily! He has so many guns and he’s in a totally different league to me. He’s much keener than me, is ex-army and would shoot a lot more than me.”

RC: What about the lure of the hill, have you ever stalked deer?

W F-P: “I stalked as a child on the odd trip to Scotland. I have stalking memories rather than stalking experience. I’ve got two boys who are growing up fast and it could be something they get in to, so it might be something to look forward to in my old age.”

RC: You must get some thundering invitations?

W F-P: “I get a few invitations and I’m always keen to give it a go if I possibly can. I like to have a few days hunting as well, either with the Portman or the Blackmore Vale. A few days’ shooting and a few days’ hunting and that’s it, the winter’s gone. It’s a balance but, for me, shooting is a brilliant day off.”

For more information about William Fox-Pitt visit, foxpitteventing.co.uk