Equestrianism: Stockdale aims for summit

The ambitious British show jumper needs Parcival to excel at Olympia this week
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If drive and enthusiasm were enough, Tim Stockdale would already be a regular member of the British team contesting major show jumping championships. The 37-year-old rider from Roade, in Northamptonshire, who recently featured as the show jumping trainer in the Channel 4 programme Fake It, has been focusing his talent and his considerable energy – to say nothing of his gift of the gab – on this goal for more than a decade.

Stockdale thought that he had acquired the ideal partner in this quest back in 1996, when he purchased Samoens. At the time he was supposed to be buying a house, not a horse, and his wife, Laura (then his fiancée), suggested that there must be something seriously wrong with his spelling. But, although Samoens failed to carry him on to a championship team, this proved a smart buy. The horse repaid him with generous interest when sold to the United States.

Stockdale makes no bones about being fiercely competitive. "Sometimes I am too competitive for my own good," he said. "I had to give up playing golf when it stopped being a relaxation." Also a confirmed optimist, he has had big hopes for other post-Samoens horses, among them the chunky Wiston Bridget. Now he believes that he has found a mount that will take him right to the top in Colin and Ann Garratt's Belgian-bred grey Parcival. With his distinctively flashy black mane and tail, he will join Bridget and Glenwood Springs as one of Stockdale's three mounts for this week's Olympia Show Jumping Championships.

Parcival was injured when jumping off in deep ground for the Dublin Grand Prix in August. The damage caused by a serious overreach in that contest necessitated part of the wall of his foot being cut away and a three-week stay in Newmarket. Since then the nine-year-old has jumped in just one small competition – at Addington last Thursday – and he will therefore be short of match practice. According to Stockdale, the grey horse has "unbelievable power and scope" so he is hoping for a good Olympia with him, though he will have Bridget in reserve for the big classes if the "very cheeky" Parcival seems to need more time.

"Olympia is the show we all want to get to," Stockdale said. "You feel that you're part of a select band of British riders when you're invited to compete there." He has an additional incentive to do well there this week since he is being sponsored, for this meeting only, by the bloodstock agents QBE. They are testing the water at Olympia and, if they enjoy the experience, Stockdale hopes that they might agree to support him again next year. Since losing his sponsors at Traxdata when the technology company went into receivership in July, Stockdale has had to put more emphasis on the teaching side of his business.

In Fake It, Stockdale was shown training a young dancer, Shelley Elvin, who had never ridden before. She had just four weeks to acquire the necessary skills to compete in a show jumping class, in which she achieved an amazing clear round. "Shelley has lovely balance and the posture was there straight away, but it was still a big challenge," Stockdale said. "I think the programme showed that people don't play at this sport but, at the same time, that goals are achievable."

Viewers must have thought the same, since Stockdale received more than 180 e-mails within 48 hours of the programme's transmission. His website – timstockdale.co.uk – had over 2,000 hits in two days, which was more than it had in the whole of last year. He was inundated with requests for lessons and seven lecture demonstrations were booked within five days.

Though this was gratifying, perhaps as proof of his communication skills as much as anything else, Stockdale's ambitions remain firmly in the competitive sphere. He is now focused on the World Equestrian Games, which take place in Spain next September, and intends to "have all guns blazing" when the outdoor shows start next May. At that stage he will be out to impress a new management team, with Derek Ricketts as world class performance manager and Phil Dicks as planner.

Stockdale welcomes the new set-up: "Until now it's all been a bit hazy, which was one of my bugbears this year." But in the end it still comes down to horsepower. The striking grey Parcival, who demonstrated that he has a spooky streak as well as wonderful natural ability, still has to prove his form next year.

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