Harrison Ashton: One To Watch
Here at Vivendi Apparel, from our customers to our followers, it’s clear to see that at grassroots level and below, equestrianism can be a very female dominated sport. While we are a company run by women, that doesn’t stop us wanting to support the lesser represented males within our community.
That’s why when we saw the awesome Harrison Ashton, we just had to draw a little attention to an incredible male rider and ask his opinion on the great gender divide within equestrian sports. Let’s not forget the fact that we have male specific breeches releasing so soon too!
Harrison Ashton: 18: Dressage
Harrison is an 18 year old rider from the UK. He first started riding at the age of 2, being lucky enough to grow up with horses. Fast forward to today and 16 years after his riding career first began, he’s the proud owner of a 5 year old warmblood mare called Gracie and an 8 year old section D gelding called Duke. Lastly he has Lottie, a warmblood he’s hoping to put into foal. Duke was his childhood pony who he’s since sadly outgrown and Gracie is his current competition prospect who he’s hoping to work up the levels of dressage and compete when she’s ready. He also has access to a multitude of other horses on his yard, owned by other people who he works and trains with. While dressage is his chosen discipline, he is hoping to venture into other areas thanks to the horses he has available. Here’s our interview with this incredible up and coming rider and everything Harry had to say.
Jenni - Despite having so many male role models, riding is predominantly taken up by females. Why do you think that is?
Harrison - Many males who I speak to, who participate in the equestrian community, whether they ride as a hobby or a career always highlight issues revolving around stereotypes and misjudgements because they ride horses. It’s viewed as a “girly” sport. So many have their sexuality automatically being mislabelled just because they ride horses…it’s frustrating.
J - As a male in the sport, what do you think can be done to encourage more males into the sport?
H - Personally I think equestrianism isn’t portrayed like football or swimming, where children at school go and learn and have it as an extracurricular. The only chance people get to study it or try it is at colleges, which normally by then people already know what they want to do or they already have a hobby in place that they’re passionate about.
Also Majority of people are influenced now by tv and the media where most of the ‘models’ in riding are women. So if there were more male riders televised and promoted in the media it would show that riding is not just a sport for females. I think that targeting younger audiences with male riders would encourage more males to take up the sport as they are more easily influenced. I think it’s much harder for people to take up something at an older age, especially something like horse riding.
J - Who’s your ultimate male role model?
H - I have lots of role models. I don’t personally have a favourite however anyone who has started from the bottom and worked themselves up to then own and run their own yards always inspire me. I don’t really think people realise how hard it actually is. If I had to choose though, it would have to be the likes of Carl Hester, Patrik Kittel, Edward Gal and so on…
J - What are the biggest obstacles for men in the sport for example clothing, representation at lower levels?
H - One of the biggest obstacles for men in the sport I would say is wearing jodhpurs and breeches. Not all men feel comfortable wearing tight clothing. I’ve also found the fit of breeches can be one extreme to the other. I’d say that many males are very conscious about their reputation and don't want it to be damaged by the stigma associated with the whole ‘men in jodhpurs’ thing. I also feel like the transition from normal clothing and other sportswear is pretty normal for example, if you saw a person walking into a shop wearing some sort of sport clothes you wouldn’t think anything of it. Look at equestrian clothing however and it’s so much bigger and people can not help but look...even to this day after all the years of riding I’ve only managed to find the courage to fill my car up with petrol or walk into a shop and not care what others think while wearing breeches. My biggest struggle is equestrian brands having their male clothing range looking like unisex instead of making it obvious it’s male clothing, though this is likely because of the shortage of male riders. Equestrian brands probably feel like they need to try and make it a bit of both to be able to sell it.
J - What’s the one item of equestrian clothing you just can’t do without?
H - As a rider, definitely a pair of breeches. Ideally ones with sticky bits on! But most importantly my riding gloves!
J - If you could say anything to another guy who’s considering taking up the sport but feels hesitant, what would it be?
H - If I could say anything, it would be to ignore the stereotypes. Ignore anything negative that anyone has to say about male riders because the sport is literally open to anyone. I'd also say just give it a go. I think you know straight away with horse riding if it’s for you or not. Horse riding can really give people so much help. It can help with mental illnesses and can give people the freedom to do something they never would normally get to do. It also gives you a purpose to wake up every morning and get out there.
J - Any top tips for other clothing brands out there looking to create more male specific clothing? What you’d like to see more of?
H - I would like to see more clothing especially for men that could be worn in public, say going from the yard to the supermarket. Maybe it would be good for them to take a few ideas from non-horsey brands and make them suitable for equestrians to use around horses. I think over time this will potentially help the ‘cliche’ of it not being a manly sport.
J - What’s your favourite equestrian clothing brand right now for male specific riding wear?
H - The best brand that I’ve found to do a good variety of men’s clothing and is a good fit would be Kingsland but I do have different brands that I’ve found are good in their own way. Le Mieux breeches are great for a day to day, realistically priced pair of breeches you can’t go wrong with...I’ve also found them to fit me really well and let’s face it, not everyone wants to spend £100+ on a pair of breeches to ride and get covered in mud. I think this is why you would see a lot of males and even females wearing normal day to day clothing at yards, as some prices are ridiculous.
J - You’ve created quite the following on Instagram and have a really great fan base now! What sort of opportunities do you hope it’ll bring?
H - I’m hoping my platform would potentially change a few people’s thoughts on male riders, which I definitely think it has already (maybe not thousands but certainly a few). Also to show other riders that you can embrace what you do and how respected you can be for doing the thing you love and just being yourself! So far I’ve met some amazing people and made some great friends. I’ve learnt lots and also helped others...I'm hoping one day I would have the chance to maybe bring out my own brand from my platform or work with some great business and collaborate and be able to share it all with my followers. Most importantly to be able to promote myself as a person who works in the industry and have my platform help with my business as a future trainer/rider. It already has brought me some amazing opportunities but time will tell and I’m just going to have to wait!
J - Is there anything you do outside of actually riding to improve your sport such as fitness?
H - To be honest with all the riding I do I don’t really have the time or energy to then go and do other things, I should really! I have turned an area of my stable block into a gym but I haven’t actually used it yet!!! Once I have some free time available, I will certainly be thinking about joining some fitness classes or maybe even get a personal trainer. Being fit and in shape can help with your overall riding so much so I need to focus on it more.
J - If you could ride any horse, regardless of discipline, ability or even past/present, who would it be and why?
H. - I always wish I could turn back time and have the old horses I had but ride them with the knowledge and the things I’ve learnt in the past months/years working.But I can’t think like that because without them I wouldn’t have got to this point in my riding. They’ve all taught me something different over the years. I would love to have the ride on some trained show jumpers/ eventers just to have the feel of being able to do something different as I haven’t really had the chance to explore with all different disciplines!
J - What would you like to see happen in our sport at the moment?
H - More positivity and less drama. Very rarely do I see any one being happy for other people when they do well. Also maybe doing something about entry fees/competitions as they are crazy expensive and not everyone can afford them.
J - With the current climate, how has lockdown affected you?
H - I’ve had to limit owners and friends that usually come. Sadly I just can’t risk it with me being the person that does it all at home with the horses and having my Nan live with us, it’s too risky letting people come.
Harrison Ashton: A Future Star
Harrison Ashton is definitely one to watch. With access to multiple competition horses at different ages and stages of their career, he intends to learn as much as possible and take in as much as he can from different professionals. Despite doing everything he can himself at home, he plans on focusing on one or two horses in particular and competing with them to see how far he can go while of course, sharing his journey with his followers along the way. If you’d like to see more of Harrison, you can find him on his equestrian instagram as well as his personal Instagram, his Facebook page and his Youtube !