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News > LoOK > Racing ahead: how Hannah Biggs turned a love of horses into an exciting career

Racing ahead: how Hannah Biggs turned a love of horses into an exciting career

Hannah (OK 1985-90) is one of Britain's leading dressage riders. The international Grand Prix competitor and trainer talks about the importance of a growth mindset and mucking in!
24 Jan 2022
United Kingdom
LoOK
Hannah and one of her horses
Hannah and one of her horses

When were you at Kellett? 

I was at Kellett from 1984 to1990. My sister Chloe (OK 1991-97) attended too, although we were never at the school at the same time and just missed each other!  

Hannah (left) & Chloe (right)

What are your strongest memories of Kellett?

My strongest memories are those made out of the classrooms themselves! I loved the little library and would spend hours snuggled up in there reading. I continue to be a keen bookworm now! As I have always been pretty sporty, I have strong memories of running round the playground, on the monkey bars and being a part of the netball team. I still have a medal I won at one of the inter-school competitions! I also loved The Muppets play we put on in my last year at Kellett. Being the super competitive person I am, I was determined to be the first to progress on to the big recorder in music classes! I also have fun memories of chanting ‘Fai De, Fai De’ from the back of the bus, as they raced up the long hill to the school! My favourite teacher would have to be Mr Marshall, he was always so encouraging and calm.

Are you still in touch with any other OKs – if so, who?

Quite a few of my year continued on to Island School with me, so we kept in touch from there. There are a few who I communicate regularly with via the power of social media and some who have stayed closer to, namely Alice Barty (OK 1983-90), Jenny Hochstetter (OK 1985 – 90) and Jason Keen (OK 1983). I don’t get to see them often enough as we don’t all live in the same countries, but as the world starts to open up again, I hope to rectify that!

What did you do after leaving school?

I spent five years at Island School in Hong Kong, and then we moved as a family to the UK. I completed my sixth form at St Swithuns in Winchester. I didn't go on to university, but instead spent those years working and learning at a dressage yard in Germany. I was so focused on my career and at the time there were no interesting uni courses to support that path. Now there is a huge range available to budding young equine professionals! So, I went out into the world and learnt on the job. It was wonderful and incredibly hard work all at the same time, but I followed my passion and what was, at the time, the best path to achieving my goals. Skills I learnt on the job weren’t just riding and coaching, but business management, sports psychology and marketing. Running your own business teaches you to take on a whole range of roles!

How did you first get involved with horses?

I first sat on a pony when on holiday with my family in Devon, in the UK. We used to go to Cheston, the local riding stables, and go for gallops across Dartmoor! Once bitten by the bug, I persuaded my parents to let me continue riding in HK and I started at Pok Fu Lam Public Riding School, just up the road from Kellett in Pok Fu Lam. From there I progressed on to riding at Beas River Country Club and Lo Wu Services Saddle Club. We would still go riding in Devon every summer, as we spent the time there with my Grandma.

What advice would you give to anyone who is interested in following in your footsteps?

Find your USP! There are so many talented riders out there, but those that can stand out with a unique angle, or skill set will go far. You need to understand the business side of it, but most of it is people skills. Gain an advantage by developing your growth mindset from the outset. Pure riding talent is only getting one foot in the door, understanding the psychology of sport and the emotional connection people have with horses will see you go much further! A good way to progress is to get yourself to a top yard and work your way up from the bottom. You don’t need to have buckets of money to get to the top. All three of the Team GB Olympic Dressage riders at Tokyo 2020 started off working as grooms in the stables, and their talent and hard work drove them on up to the riders they are today.

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

Hannah Biggs riding Southern Cross Stud's Ice Age carrying the 2012 Olympic torch.I have a proud riding moment and a proud coaching moment! Both involve the Olympic Games. My proudest riding moment revolves around the London 2012 Olympics. I was on the BEF World-Class programme at the time and was invited to ride at the Olympic test event. I was short-listed for the team and was selected to be part of the Ambition Programme. The programme is aimed to give potential Olympians a taste of the Games without the pressure of having to compete. We lived the life of the athletes, met so many inspirational people and got mobbed by kids wanting autographs as we walked round London in our Team GB kit! All of this was possible because of the super results I had been achieving at international dressage shows on my top horse at the time.

Coaching wise, my proudest moment was when Thomas Heffernan Ho completed the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as the first Hong Kong event rider. Due to Covid restrictions, I couldn’t actually be there in person, but I coached him via video and was up at 3am to watch his dressage test! I have been coaching him for a few years and to see him achieve his dreams was a very special moment! 

Have you been back to Hong Kong since you left?

Yes I have been back to Hong Kong regularly. Mostly just for holidays or to visit friends and my sister, who still lives in HK, over on Lantau. More recently (pre-pandemic) I have been back to HK twice a year to coach riding back at Beas River Country Club! It was both wonderful and weird to be back there but this time as a coach. HK still holds a huge place in my heart and will always feel like home, so it’s always a magical place to return to.

How has the pandemic affected you – your life and work?

It affected me in ways I didn’t quite expect. My normal life didn’t change too much as I had the horses at home to care for and exercise. One of my dearest HK friends brought her horses to my yard (she lives in the UK during the summer months to compete as an event rider for HK) and we spent the long lockdown days together with our horses. I learnt to conduct a lot more coaching sessions online, which has been a great way to keep in touch with my clients from abroad. I taught lessons in Norway and Russia, all from my front room!

The other way the pandemic affected me was via my husband. He was put on furlough and eventually left the company he was working at to follow his own dreams, and together we have started a gin distillery company called Tack Room Distillery! He worked in the drinks industry for 20 years and has always had a talent for creating cocktails, so took this gift and turned it into his own brand, all created next to my business with the horses!

Below are photos of Hannah from when she was at Kellett (log in to view). 


Media coverage

Great Britain’s Hannah Biggs & Weltzin Win Saumur CDI3* Grand Prix Freestyle, 2014

Hannah Biggs and Weltzin Bag Grand Prix Kur at 2014 CDI Saumur - Sat, 10/04/2014 

Platinum Born This Way with Hannah Biggs - Fri, 10/26/2012

Bigg has dressage ambition - 14th August 2012


 

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