Felicity Collins
Horse & Hound|November 25, 2021
The breakout star of Bicton five-star talks to Pippa Roome about beating mental demons, making a business viable and next year’s Badminton
Pippa Roome

THE top 10 at Britain’s only five-star this year, Bicton, was littered with the who’s who of eventing, but rounding out that leading group was a rider who is just 23 years old and was achieving her first completion at five-star.

Watching Felicity Collins that week, a slight figure on a big bay horse punching out an assured double jumping clear, spectators probably thought this was a natural, easy progression for her. Daughter of Vicky Collins, who was shortlisted for the Atlanta Olympics, Felicity is already a three-time medallist at under-21 level. Success at five-star was the next inevitable step on the ladder, surely?

But in reality, Felicity’s Bicton placing was a hard-won result, encompassing hard work as well as talent and a gritty battle to beat the demons in her own mind.

Significantly, Bicton was Felicity’s first five-star completion, but not her first start at the level. That came at Pau in the autumn of 2019, when she took both RSH Contend Or (Mickey) and the second-generation home-bred Just Amazing (Mazie) to France.

“I underestimated Pau. It was huge and so technical, it caused a lot of problems that year,” she reflects. “My brakes failed on Mickey and we had three fly-bys. He wasn’t going badly or stopping, but by three-quarters of the way round I had to go home.”

She also pulled up Mazie, who lost a shoe early on. It wasn’t a disaster, but Felicity struggled through the following winter, seriously considering giving up eventing.

“I was so disappointed, so embarrassed. I felt I’d let everyone down,” says Felicity. “I felt it was going to ruin my business, everything I’d worked for. You do have to talk yourself up, then I thought everyone would be laughing at me.”

Covid hit in 2020 so Felicity couldn’t go and prove herself at five-star – but in a way, that was a relief. Her confidence had been hit hard.

“To anyone else, I didn’t have a crashing fall, my horse didn’t injure himself, it’s not the end of the world,” she says. “But I was so convinced I wasn’t good enough. For the first time ever, it affected my riding. It took my eye away, I struggled to see a place to a fence.”

Felicity would cry in the lorry returning from events because she’d taken a pull to a fence, despite jumping a double clear.

“I wasn’t frightened of a fall, but I was so terrified of making a mistake,” she says. “I always try too hard – I used to say I wish I didn’t care so much – and it became exhausting.”

How did she turn that cycle around?

“To be honest, I’m still working on it,” she says. “If I do something wrong, I still will be cross with myself, but basically I just had to keep practising. I had to stop overthinking it. I was obsessed the whole time with not riding well enough, and it got to the point where I had to look at what I’d done before and think, ‘I am half decent, I obviously can ride.’

“Everyone around me started to realise how sensitive I was and I had a lot of support building me up.”

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