We’ve been chatting to At The Races & The Arena Show (The Gaitpost) TV Presenter Vanessa Ryle to find out more about what it's like to own a 4* legend. We also wanted to find out more about how she came about a career in racing media and some of the best advice she has been given...
How did you get into horses?
My Mum has always ridden and had an equestrian interest so when I was old enough I was plonked on top of a riding school pony and the horsey obsession really grew from there.
What led you to your current role?
I fell in love with racing through watching Channel 4 Racing on a Saturday during my teens and I knew that a career in the racing industry was really what I wanted. Both my parents worked in media and I had grown up surrounded by that world so it seemed like a good idea to combine those two things. A few work placements later and I found myself with an Internship at At The Races and I am still there now. I was incredibly fortunate to be in the right places at the right times and met some people along the way who really helped me get that first foot on the ladder.
What has been your favourite moment in your career?
I have had some really great moments along the way but one that sticks out in the memory is the first ever shoot, At The Races let me go on as the official on screen presenter. They sent me to Brighton on the Wednesday of Royal Ascot to film a feature on the racecourse, it was incredibly unglamorous but I drove there and back on cloud 9 and it felt like I was actually getting somewhere on the career path.
Do you have a favourite horse, past or present?
Oh Lord, I have an endless list in every discipline. In Racing it would be Kauto Star- he really helped me fall in love with the sport. In Eventing it would obviously be Mulry’s Error and in Show Jumping it would be Big Star from the past and Cain O’Connor’s Good Luck in the present- both have extreme scope and are really exciting to watch.
Tell us a little bit about your horses?
Well, we have 4 horses, but my own horse is “Brother Bridie”- Mulry’s Error’s half-brother. He is a real cob but has plenty of scope and character. He is called Brother Bridie as me and Mum used to love watching “Brideshead Revisited”- the ITV drama. In that series the brother to the main character is called Bridie so it seemed apt that with Mulry being the main character in our own lives we should call his brother Bridie!
What is it like owning 4* legend Mr Mulry?
Well, you’d have to ask my mum as she is the official owner! But to be part of his journey has been amazing. We loved him from the day he arrived with his big feet on the livery yard at home and every day since he has surprised us. To me and my Mum he has been a life changer, a dream maker and above all else, he’s never once been a heart breaker. He’s never let us down and it would be no over exaggeration to say he has taken us to places we never thought we’d go. Through Mulry we’ve met the Hobday family and both me and my Mum consider them lifelong friends who we’ve enjoyed many a happy memory with.... and the odd bottle of Champagne!
How did you find Mr Mulry and did you always think he would be the 4* hero that he is?
We brought Mulry from a dealer in Yorkshire- a friend of my Mum’s knew we were looking for an all-round hunter and he rang us to say he had one that might suit, he had brought him from Ireland having been unsold at Ballinasloe Fair! We went to try him and Mum was unsure but I loved him and so persuaded her to buy him. She was nervous that he was only 4 and although she liked him, she didn’t really want something so young. Did we ever think he would be a 4* horse? Are you kidding?! We didn’t even know if he would get round a BE100 let alone anything bigger! Mum just started eventing him and we took it one step at a time, he gradually stepped up the grades and it became apparent he had a bit of talent... The rest if history!
What has been the highlight of Mr Mulry’s career?
He’s jumped round three 4* and jumped two double clears. But the second Badminton, when Ben Hobday had recovered from cancer, was pretty special. He jumped round the XC like a superstar and the pure emotion as he crossed the line was unbelievable. The next day we were all a little hungover and we were worried about the show jumping but he strolled on in the big ring and never touched a pole. The crowd went wild as they knew his story and at the time I had to pinch myself that this wasn’t a film I was watching, this was real life.
If Mr Mulry were a human celebrity who would he be?
Well I don’t know about human celebrity but we always thought if he could talk he would speak like the Bulldog in the Churchill Insurance adverts. Can you jump round a 4* Mr Mulry? “Oh Yes!”.
Has your job ever led you to meet someone famous?
I don’t know what is classed as ‘famous’ but I get to meet lots of well-known people. I once got to interview Victoria Pendleton for Women In Racing and that was brilliant- she is incredibly engaging and interesting, you could chat to her all day about lots of things.
The best line you’ve ever used to blag your way in or out of something?!
When I was at Prep School one of my teachers told me to ‘lie, deny and cry’. I don’t wholeheartedly agree with that concept but it has got me out the odd tricky spot in the past!
What is your least favourite part of your job?
I honestly struggle to think of a part of my job I don’t like but I suppose when it is gloriously sunny outside and I have to sit in a windowless edit suite for 12 hours then that isn’t ideal!
What is the best piece of advice anyone has given you?
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you imagined.”- I do that pretty much every single day.
What advice would you give someone wanting to make a career in racing?
Say “yes” to everything. Every opportunity, every trip, every invite and every challenge. You don’t know who you will meet along the way and half the battle is meeting the right people and you won’t do that sat at home on the sofa.
If you could invite any 3 people to a dinner party who would you invite?
Novak Djokovic, Harvey Smith and Rob Brydon.
If you hadn’t got involved in racing media what would have been your second choice career?
A Nanny- You will be surprised to hear that I am a qualified Childcare Practitioner!
We’ve really enjoyed hearing about Mulry’s Error and his equally cool brother Bridie and we hope you have as well. If you’re as excited about Badminton Horse Trials as we are then why not test your knowledge on our Badminton quiz here.