As the Eventing season is coming to an end I would like to take a moment to celebrate the success of Piggy French this season. What a season she has had! Wow!
Last weekend saw Piggy smash the record of international wins in a season. After winning two classes at Osberton Horse Trials, then winning the 6 year old World Championship Piggy has now won 15 international events this season alone! Michael Jung previously held this record at 13 international wins in a season in 2009, 2014 and 2015. Woohoo! Piggy has won at Badminton, Blenheim and Chatsworth to name a few.
I thought celebrating this with Piggy is so good for women in the sport (I do love it when a girl wins!) but also for perseverance too. I remember watching Piggy when I was younger at events as someone that I noticed because of her name and now she has had the most successful season of eventing in history!
With that in mind I wanted to find out more about Piggy and how she got to be so successful, as although she has had some great success she certainly has had a more than her fair share of disappointment too. Piggy has been competing for over 25 years and started her international career in 2001 in the Young Rider European Championships in Belgium, where she won team gold and individually came 4th. Since then her career has flourished, competing in several European and World Equestrian games successfully. Most recently in 2018 where she was part of the team that won gold at The World Equestrian Games in Tyron, USA. Piggy is not just a one hit wonder either, she has had success with several different horses too including Vamir Kamira, Jakata and Cooley Lancer to name a few.
Did you know that not only did she win badminton this year, she beat her ex Oliver Townend of whom she dated for 7 years to the title leaving him in second place! Yeah! She is happily married now to Tom March and they have a three year old little boy but still that had to feel good!!
Those are just the hi-lights though, as we probably all know even the best laid plans involving horses never go quite right. Well this has been the case for Piggy over the last few years and that maybe an understatement. Piggy qualified for the London Olympics in 2012 with two horses Jakata and Topper W and dedicated her life to getting these two horses ready for the Olympic games. But it wasn’t meant to be as both horses picked up injuries just before the event. Meaning that Piggy never made it there. But not only that she lost a lot at that very ‘gloomy time’ as she describes. She lost owners, funding and sponsorship. Luckily a few months later she won an international event on Tinka’s Time and she could see a light again at the end of the tunnel. The pair were shortlisted for the European Championships in 2013, but the day after she received the phone call to tell her that Tinka’s Time was lame as well! Piggy describes this time as a time where she ‘had an anger inside her that she couldn’t overtake’ the harder she tried the less seemed to happen for her. She dreaded headlines of her missing out on another season due to injury, people criticising the way she looks after her horses and really couldn’t see a path forwards. It was rock bottom for her.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2016 and Piggy discovered that she was pregnant. ‘An emotional bombshell’ for her as of course this would dramatically affect this season too, actually feeling like she was letting her owners down again. She dished out the horses that she had to other riders and took a step back. Now, without any rides of her own she went to visit other riders and observe what they do, she learnt a lot and started feeling more positive again. After taking a step back and remembering why she got into the sport to begin with, the love she has for bringing on horses not just winning titles and once she had her baby, she started to get the competitive spirit back again and managed to secure some new owners including comedian Jennifer Saunders and one year later came second at Burghley in 2017. From there she has not looked back. Back with a renewed passion she just kept winning!
No longer just the girl with the funny name, whose real name is actually Georgina. Piggy actually thought about changing her records back to Georgina, but now finds it quite funny that they will have to write Piggy in the record books!
We are now very close to the end of the 2019 season and its fair to say it has not just been the year of the pig in Chinese calendars but in Eventing too and long may it continue! Well done Piggy I am so glad the years of hard work are finally paying off for you!
Copyright of Louise Dando and In Due Horse 2019.