Show Jumping star Laura Renwick
PUBLISHED: 08:09 07 July 2015 | UPDATED: 08:09 07 July 2015
Maldon's Laura Renwick is Great Britain's leading female show jumper, coming back into the sport after some time out as an air stewardess. Mica Bale finds out what it is about Essex that keeps her grounded in the county
With its lush, rolling fields and sunny climate, Essex has always been a buzz of outdoor activity. Whether it’s seaside walks in the sunset or cool breezes in the late summer evenings, Essex has been the perfect place for all those who just love the great outdoors. And the great outdoors is just one of the reasons Great Britain’s leading lady show jumper, Laura Renwick, loves to chat about why she adores Essex and how the charming county shaped her early career and propelled her to international fame.
‘I’ve lived in Essex all my life,’ says Laura. ‘It’s home. My family are all really close to me here and Essex is just such a lovely county with a lovely community. I am a country girl at heart, plus the weather is brilliant and it’s within easy reach of London.’
Laura was born in the small village of Henham in the Uttlesford District and is part of a very rural family. Her father was a farmer and her mother ran a riding school as well as being a well-known show jumping judge.
‘I had the pleasure of growing up on a farm,’ Laura enthuses. ‘I rode from a young age and have always had horses as part of my life. My first jumping pony was a grey called Cygnet who we bought from a guy called John Renwick, who years later became my husband!’
Laura has fond memories of her early life as a young rider growing up in the rural surroundings of Essex, including riding and competing at various equestrian shows. She had been given her first pony at the age of one.
Laura continues: ‘Essex has a few main hubs in the horse world for all kinds of equestrian events. For instance, it’s nice to see racing starting up again at Great Leighs, which is now called the Chelmsford City Racecourse. A few of the places I used to compete at, like Towerlands Equestrian Centre, are no longer with us, but it is great that they have been replaced by even better facilities. I still like to go to local shows whenever I can.’
As a young rider in her very early years, Laura enjoyed trying out everything the Essex equestrian world had to offer.
‘I did all the Pony Club stuff and enjoyed trying out a bit of everything, such as dressage, eventing, showing, but show jumping was what I loved. When I was about ten or eleven, I knew it was for me. I think as a child, I wasn’t the bravest of riders. I fell off a lot and you wouldn’t catch me jumping six foot hedges, but there’s always a certain amount of risk and the only way to overcome it is to get back on.’
When Laura was a young rider in her late teens, she left the world of horses to go and take up a job with British Airways as a cabin crew member and stayed with them for three years. She continued to ride for pleasure in her leisure time, but she was sure she had left competing for good.
‘My father wanted me to do anything but horses. It’s expensive, but I was never pushed and I did have a free rein. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with British Airways and saw some fabulous places.’ When asked what brought her back to the equestrian scene, Laura explains simply: ‘It gets in my blood.’
Today, Laura is still based in Essex and lives with her husband John — an international show jumping superstar in his own right — with their son, Jack, who enjoys nothing more than playing football. They all live at their super equestrian yard at Maldon, where there is never a dull moment.
‘Being a mother has and always will be my priority,’ says Laura. ‘I couldn’t do what I do without the help and support from my family, particularly my mother who is always there when I need her. John’s parents also help out and I feel very lucky to have this support network around me to enable me to concentrate on my riding when I need to.’
Together with her husband, Laura competes all over the world and trains young and upcoming horses and riders as well as keeping her seven main mounts fit for competitions. ‘There were several riders who were my heroes growing up, such as Liz Edgar, the late Caroline Bradley and even the Whittakers. It’s odd to think I’m competing against them now when they used to be my heroes,’ confesses Laura.
Given a choice of any mount past or present, Laura reveals: ‘I think it would have to be Shutterfly, owned by American-born German show jumper Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum.’
One of Laura’s own favourite horses was the fiery black mare Limelight De Breve (affectionately known as Lulu) whom she found as a three year old.
‘She was a little black mare with a lot of blood! I can say I fell off her a fair amount of times when she was young, but she always found the jumping part very easy and loved it from the start,’ Laura recalls. ‘We probably didn’t know how special she was until she was a six year old. She was careful, scopey and extremely fast! She liked to do things her own way, but always tried to clear the fences for me and taught me so much as I had never jumped at Grand Prix level before. Limelight took me all the way there, she had the biggest heart and gave 100% every time.’
In Laura’s down time, she still enjoys the outdoors of the Essex countryside and just spending time with her family in the county. ‘As I’ve said before, I am a very outdoorsy person. I enjoy family time, eating out in restaurants and we also go and watch Jack play football. I like my music too. I am a big Eminem fan and listen to them, as well as Coldplay and Lady Gaga when I’m travelling. I like that sort of stuff.’
Laura is a very sporty type and would still like to have been a sports professional even if she wasn’t such a world class show jumper.
‘If I wasn’t a horse rider, I would definitely have loved be a professional tennis player,’ Laura admits. ‘I love it and play for pleasure when I have the time.’
But as an internationally-famous show jumper, life is always extremely busy for Laura. Nevertheless, wherever her extensive travels take her in the equestrian world, Laura Renwick will always be an Essex girl at heart.