The Lincolnshire lady and team winning championship medals
We discover what’s involved in the business of becoming a world champion — and it’s far more than just time on a great horse.
Getting to the top in any sport requires not just talent but an inordinate amount of work, sacrifice and dedication, usually over many years. It also requires great team support, whether that be coaches, nutritionists, sports psychologists or – in the case of equestrian sport – grooms, owners and equally importantly, sponsors, to keep the show on the road.
Lincolnshire can boast its very own past World Champion and reigning Badminton Horse Trials champion, the appropriately named Ros Canter.
Ros grew up on the family farm in Hallington, near Louth, where ponies were a big part of her childhood. Over the years she has enjoyed many successes both in Young Event Horse Championships and on British Nations Cup teams. However, it was in 2017 that she stepped up to the British senior team following good results at the very top level, winning a European team gold medal.
Since then, more medals have made their way back to Lincolnshire, most notably team and individual golds at the 2018 World Championships, and at the time of writing Ros is in Haras du Pin, France, at the European Championships with her 2023 Badminton Horse Trials winner, Lordships Graffalo.
This success has been possible because of the back-up Ros has at her home base, much of it coming from her family. Her mother, Heather, manages the family farm from where Ros runs her business, and is a key player in the horse care, book-keeping, and mucking out departments. Her father, Barnie, is an expert lorry-washer, strimmer and school-leveller, although he is a self-confessed equine ‘ignoramus’, preferring to get his sporting kicks on the tennis court.
Ros attributes much of her success to meeting her husband, Chris, saying: “It’s no coincidence that my results got much better after I met him.” Like Barnie, Chris is not ‘horsey’ but is the perfect voice of reason for Ros. The pair had a baby in 2019 and daughter Ziggy is now also a key part of the team.
Long-standing stable rider Georgie Frow, with back-up from Sonja Brown and Travis Leigh (all of whom live close to Hallington) help keep the show on the road while Sarah Charnley, from Salmonby, has juggled a full-time job as a Building Control Surveyor with grooming for Ros at five-star events and championships for 10 years.
However, it takes more than a great home team to win championship medals, and this is where owners and sponsors step in. Owners tend to know what sort of rider they are looking to support and, to a certain extent, manage themselves. When it comes to sponsors, it is a different ball game. Sponsorship deals need to be mutually beneficial for the partnership to be long-lasting.
Ros’ longest standing sponsor is Lincolnshire-based Emerald Green Feeds. The relationship came about through a chance encounter 11 years ago when one of the company directors, Mark Poucher, was playing with his band, The Baltic Donkeys, at Ros’ sister’s wedding. While chatting, he and Ros realised they had a mutual interest in horse feeds and Mark introduced Ros to the concept of feeding grass pellets, which was very new then.
Emerald Green Feeds’ Louise Burchnall explains: “Ros’ career and reputation have blossomed just as our own range of feed for equines and grazing animals has become established and respected.”
Conversely, Agria UK is Ros’ most recent sponsor and, come this year’s Burghley, will be celebrating the first anniversary of their partnership, as well the company’s first UK anniversary of offering Lifetime Equine Insurance.
As a brand which puts animal welfare and sustainability front and centre – working with a range of welfare specialists and sponsoring key research – Agria is a great fit for Ros.
Vicki Wentworth, CEO of Agria UK, explains: “We love seeing top riders inspire future generations, sharing their passion and love of the horse. Gaining an insight into how the sport operates at a top level with a horse-centric approach, and sharing this knowledge with our followers and policyholders, brings them closer to these elite riders.
“Our first twelve months have given the Agria Equine team highlight after highlight, including sponsoring a fence at Burghley, watching Ros win Badminton, and seeing all of Ros’ horses enjoying their time in the field – living the welfare values we champion.”
Louise at Emerald Green Feeds agrees: “Any association with someone as successful as Ros is a huge privilege. Many of our customers appreciate that we are a family farming business and that we are all about good quality, simplicity and transparency. Ros helps reinforce those principles with her own hard working approach, and she gives others the confidence to feed naturally at competition level. She is a wonderful ambassador.”
Both Agria UK and Emerald Green Feeds agree Ros has become a key part of their teams and, as far as possible, is flexible with her time. Both companies have benefitted from the generosity of another Ros sponsor, Jump 4 Joy – Ros now has Agria and Emerald Green branded show jumps in her arena, much enjoyed by all of her students. And as locals, Louise and Peter Burchnall were lucky enough to go to Ros’ Badminton winning party. Team Canter makes people feel very welcome.
Ros says: “Sponsors are a big part of my business. Eventing is an expensive sport and my sponsors not only support me financially but also with product, where relevant.
“More importantly, over time we build up great friendships – I only accept partnerships with companies whose teams and products I am genuinely happy to recommend.”