Ben Atkinson – ‘I do this for the Horses not the Glory’

A little while ago I saw an article about a rider – Ben Atkinson. Since that day I’ve been following his journey and his many stories online…

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Ben is a 21 year old professional equine stunt rider, trick rider and trainer from Eastrington in East Yorkshire. He has been riding his whole life, ever since he was born and is a member of Atkinson Action Horses. He and the rest of his team have spent the past twenty years training horses and riders for Film, TV and Live Events. They specialise in providing high quality services such as horse master & lead actors horses, stunt training for riders and horses, or even a full team of trick riders. They pride themselves on being ready and prepared for any task that comes to them! Over the years they have branched out and now offer liberty horses, carriage driving horses and classically trained dressage horses.

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Ben & his father

Ben was kind enough to answer some questions for me as part of an interview series I’ll be running here, focusing on horse riding and travel.

Who’s your biggest inspiration in life?
The biggest inspiration in my life was my father: the greatest, most talented man I have ever met in all the world. He speaks to horses in a clear and easy way that no one I have ever seen or heard of can match!

What’s the best part of your job? 
The best part of my job is getting to take a horse on a journey from foal to fully trained display horse and learning about its character and quirks along the way.

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A member of the Atkinson Action Horses team

What’s your dream performance?
My dream performance is one where me and my horses can work in perfect harmony. To me it does not matter if that’s in the school at home by myself or at the horse of the year show – I do this for the horses not the glory!

Do you have a favourite horse or horse breed (in terms of what they’re like to ride)?
In my eyes no breed is better than the Andalusian (though after visiting Dubai the Arab stallions have a very special place in my heart)!

You’re currently in Dubai and you’re on your way to India soon – tell me more about the travelling you do and the sort of jobs you do when on the road?
Haha traveling is a HUGE part of the job, I don’t really know how to answer this question as we do everything on the road. In Dubai I have been training liberty horses and trick riding horses and I will also be putting shows together out here and training triage horses. India is a film job so making horses safe for actors and planning and rehearsing stunts.

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I know your horses are comfortable flying, how do you prepare them for that?
There really is no way to prepare them for flying or going on a ferry; you can just make sure the horse travels well in a lorry and be there for them.

Of all the countries you’ve travelled to, which is your favourite?
Dubai is the best at the moment! But nothing and I mean NOTHING beats Yorkshire!

Do you have any horsemanship tips?
The best tips I can give you are to never work a horse if you are in a bad mood, be kind and understanding and never rush; never train with a time limit and never get angry at your horse because 9 times out of 10 he just does not understand what you’re asking.

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Is there any stunt or trick you’ve found particularly hard to learn?
Learning to keep my arms in when I do a saddle fall was one of the hardest things as it’s instinct to try to catch yourself.

Have you ever had a bad fall or been badly injured?
The worst injury I ever got in my line of work was when an Irish drag stepped on my little toe and split it in half! Sorry not very exciting I know!

What would you say to people who say it’s cruel to make horses jump through fire?
I’d say it’s cruel to keep a horse’s wealth of knowledge confined to trotting in circles and jumping 2 ft 6 tracks due to their lack of adventure and understanding. Horses thrive on challenge and learning.

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Looking back, is there anything you’d do differently?
I would have taken more dressage lessons as a child!

Finally, what do you see when you look at horses?
When I see a horse I see something that is pure and free, untainted by greed like humans are. I see something that will do anything for you and always love you no matter how many mistakes you make or how little you understand. They are the kindest and most generous creatures on the planet.

Once again, a big thanks to Ben for taking the time to talk to me about his job and his personal connection with horses. Make sure to look out for Atkinson Action Horses in the many shows and performances they take part in – they aren’t just incredible riders, they’re actors, swordsmen, jousters and I’m sure have a whole host of other talents too! I saw them recently at Battle Bridge, a re-enactment of the battle of the Romans with the Iceni at King’s Cross – I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Make sure to follow Ben and his team on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date (and for many more incredible photos!)

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