5 mins with show jumper, mum and business owner ELLEN WHITAKER
Between being a mum to the gorgeous brothers Harry and Frankie, riding, training, competing and co-running the Marinas Whitaker stable with fellow showjumper and fiancé Tony, Ellen is the epitome of a multi tasker and is a showjumping wonderwoman.
Being born into a one of the world’s most famous showjumping families and starting to ride at a young age, Ellen successfully rode on junior and senior teams along with wins at prestigious international shows like Hickstead, HOYS, Olympia.
Ellen took a break from riding in 2014 to welcome her first child Harry and a second break in 2016 to have her youngest son Frankie, all whilst running her business.
I wanted to find out how she manages to be a mum, rider, producer and business owner and how she looks at the sport since becoming a parent…
HOW DID YOU FIND RETURNING TO RIDING AND THE SPORT AFTER HAVING CHILDREN?
ELLEN: I was really lucky that I bounced back very quickly after having my children. I had two c-sections, not by choice but I did recover quickly from them. In the early months, I did struggle with concentration a little bit. I found it hard to hand my baby over and stop thinking about him and his well being to switch to horses and the riding. I think you have to be so focused to be successful in anything and I did find that difficult in the early months. I would usually get to a show and start riding and concentrating on my plan straight away, but that was not always possible with a little baby to look after. I also did not want to leave him until I knew he would be fine so there were times when I felt it would be impossible to be successful and a good mum. But it soon became the new way of life and I seemed to relax a bit more and then get the hang of it.
DID YOU FIND YOUR OUTLOOK, AMBITIONS, PRIORITIES HAD CHANGED?
ELLEN: Priorities definitely. Family first, it has to be that way. But my career is just as important to me as it always has been. I had a few hiccups with my health after having children which stalled me a bit, but I am stronger than ever right now and I am ready for the fight back to the best I can be. The only thing which makes life a little more difficult is now I have to sell horses when the opportunity comes so its more difficult to have a constant strong ready team. But I am hoping to get to a point when we have the home we need and the facilities we need to be able to start holding onto them ASAP.
A LOT OF PEOPLE ASK ME HOW I MANAGE TO WORK WITH MY HUSBAND (which I actually love) BUT HOW DO YOU FIND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS TOGETHER WITH YOUR PARTNER TONY?
ELLEN: I love it, it has it challenging days but before I worked with Tony I worked with my dad which also had its challenging days!!
WHAT ARE THE POSITIVES OF RUNNING YOUR OWN STABLES AND BUSINESS?
ELLEN: Control, it has made me a much stronger person and has taught me a huge amount.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE HARDEST THINGS ABOUT STARTING THE BUSINESS AND STABLES?
ELLEN: Bills, expenses, staff. We have only just found a yard we want to buy in the UK as it proved difficult to find one with the scope to do what we we need to do at an affordable price for us. We are currently in a rented property which is not where we live so we travel 40 mins there and back daily so the hours can be quite hard on the family.
HOW DO YOU FIND TRAVELLING TO SHOWS SINCE BECOMING A MUM?
ELLEN: Interesting!! Ha ha! Tony almost always drives the truck or goes with the truck as my stallion is a big horse and he can be a bit of a handful so we don’t ever take risks with him. I either go with the children in the car which very importantly has DVD players! Or we fly if its too far to drive. But the amount of stuff you have to take with children is incredible! Car seats, prams, toys, clothes, spare clothes, bottles, blankets, teddys…. the list goes on and on but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love to travel with my children and its always good to the have the car there if possible too.
DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY AT THE MARINAS WHITAKER STABLE?
ELLEN: The yard starts at 7am with the usual and when we arrive everything has been on the walker and is ready for work. I can’t leave the house until Ellie (my nanny) arrives at 8am so I leave as soon as she gets to our house except Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday when I leave at 8.30am after taking Harry to pre-school. Tony always leaves earlier. We usually have a coffee when we arrrive, set out the arena according to the days plans, ride, lunge exercise the horses. I help with washing them off as much as possible as I think it’s a good way of keeping an eye on their legs and any marks or rubs etc. Tony harrows the arena and I tidy and wash and go though the next days plans with the girls and then head home before Ellie (my nanny) leaves at 5pm. Some days we go to the gallops and to the spa on the run up to the big shows as we don’t have one at the rented property and with no indoor either at the moment the winter has been challenging this year so lots of traveling to indoor arenas for training!
WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS AND FOCUSES IN THE SPORT FOR THE FUTURE?
ELLEN: Olympic Gold…….Wish me luck!
You can follow Ellen on…..
instagram @ellenwhitaker_showjumper and @marinaswhitaker