From WEG groom to WEG rider – Murray Pote – 30 Under 30

Murray on Callaho Carolo Santanna

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Leading the FEI World Eventing Rankings in his zone of Africa and the Middle East, 23, year old Murray Pote, (RSA) is putting in place a plan to ride for South Africa at the 2018 World Equestrian Games. Since 2010, when South Africa sent a team to the WEG at Lexington, Eventing in South Africa has been growing with considerably more FEI events. Murray is leading the pack with competitive results and is one of the world’s top 30 Under 30.

Eventing in South Africa
Murray grew up with horses as his mom runs a breeding operation. His top mare, Rivervales Romance is a horse bred by his mom. Murray works in the family business, training and backing horses. He also trains and competes client’s horses.

The Eventing season begins in South Africa in February and runs until the championships in December. There is a bit of a break in the schedule from June to July as it is too hot and the ground is too hard. Last year there were six three-star level events but lack of sponsorship has curtailed the number and in 2014, there were no competitions at that level. However, there were about eight two-star events.

View at Riversvale Stud

View at Riversvale Stud

International understanding
Murray got his first taste of international completion when he joined the South African team as a groom in France for seven months to prepare for the 2010 WEG in Lexington. He then travelled to the USA and was there for three weeks leading up to the competition. Murray says, “I was young and was not really sure what I wanted to do when I left school. To have the chance to go groom for the South African Eventing Team and then travel a bit at the same time was amazing. I had always been serious and competitive about my riding but once I went over there and learned what Eventing was all about and how far you could go in the sport, it really motivated me to do what I have done up until this point. It was an eye-opener for me. I met Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson and all of those top riders. To see what they do first hand was an amazing opportunity and I felt very fortunate.”

Murray and Mark Todd at the 2010 WEG.

Murray and Mark Todd at the 2010 WEG.

Strict quarantine for horses leaving Africa
To prepare for the 2018 WEG, Murray will have to leave South Africa and base in Europe. He will need to get his horse qualified at a CCI3*. It is extremely costly to fly a horse from South Africa. The horses must first fly to Mauritius an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2000 km off the South East coast of the African continent. Here they are quarantined for 90 days to be sure that they are healthy and in particular not infected with the African Horse Sickness. After this quarantine period, they will be accepted into Europe. The cost is $35,000 CA.

As this is such an expense Murray wants to be sure that his horse will be competitive and that he is confident with his own riding abilities. “I was hoping to fly out one of my horses at the end of this season. I thought for me just to get the opportunity to base myself with somebody over there and compete would be a good experience. However, I do not really want to compete for my country until I have achieved my goals at the lower levels first. I do not want to go there with my only goal being to wear the South African colours. I want to make a name for myself and earn my place. I would say that 2018 WEG is a milestone that I could achieve.”

Murray and Riversvale Romance the mare bred by his mom.

Murray and Riversvale Romance the mare bred by his mom.

Training at home
For now, Murray trains in South Africa with some experienced and reputable talent. Daily, he trains with his mom and she is the force that keeps him inspired and focused. Once a week, he goes for jumping or dressage training with Maud Aarts. She is from Holland and worked quite closely with Tim Lips. She moved to South Africa 14 years ago. He also trains with Graham Winn, who rode for South Africa at the 2010 WEG. Murray says, “I would not have been able to do half of what I have done without the inspiration and backing of my mom, coach Maud Aarts and Graham Winn. Graham inspired me to want to achieve. He goes out of his way to lend me support on a personal level and at competitions. He has provided great guidance.”

FEI horses:

Rivervales Romance (Owner: Sherry Pote): 3*

  • 7th – 2014 Midrand CCI2*
  • 2nd– 2013 Midrand CIC3*
  • 2nd – 2013 Treverton CIC3*

 Callaho Carlos Santana: 2*

  • 2nd– 2014 Midrand CCI2*
  • 1st – 2013 Shongweni CIC2*
  • 1st – 2013 Shongweni CCI2*

In 2015, Murray is hoping for the three-star competitions to resume in South Africa, as his horses need the experience. If they are only two-star events, he will continue to compete them at that level. He will focus on improving their jumping abilities by entering them in show jumping competitions. By the end of the season, he will be aiming for the 1.50-meter classes. Depending on how things go, by the end of 2015 he will be looking to take one or two of his horses to Europe. “I would definitely like to go somewhere in England because that is where the majority of the top events are in the world. That is the heart of Eventing,” he says.

Murray has the determination and a realistic plan to ride for South Africa. We look forward to meeting him in person at the 2018 WEG in Canada.

Murray receiving a riding award and having a lot of fun.

Murray receiving a riding award and having a lot of fun.

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