Today during an official ceremony held in the new indoor riding arena at Writtle College, Bishop Stortford based Ben Maher, received an honorary doctorate for his contribution to the equestrian industry.
Show jumper Ben, who is on the British Equestrian Federation’s UK Sport funded World Class Performance Programme, received his honorary award from Professor Nigel South from the University of Essex, of which Writtle College is a partner. The ceremony was followed by a display of Ben’s show jumping expertise in front of a crowd of equestrian students, staff and visitors.
After receiving his award and after conducting his demo, Ben commented: “My demo today at Writtle College has been a thank you for my honorary doctorate, of which I feel so lucky to have been nominated for and to have received – it really is such a great honour to be here today. I always try to make sure my demos are educational and I do hope that the students will take something away from me being here today.”
During his demo, Ben commented: “Show Jumping is a bit like Formula One driving – you need to brake into a turn and then ride out of it.” He then went on to demonstrate a few jumps on rider position, showing his heels down, his body upright and showed how he kept his body in balance with the horse.
One student in the audience asked Ben about the forthcoming Olympic selection trials in June, to which Ben replied: “Tripple X is the only horse I have at the moment that is good enough for the trials, so he is the one I will be taking – after all you are only ever as good as your horse.”
Talking in more detail about the Olympics Ben went on to say: “My hopes for making it through the selection process are high, it really would be a once in a lifetime experience to compete in the Olympics in my own country, and with the bonus of a home team advantage which always help a team.”
“To get through the selection process and into the GB team would be amazing, and then to go and to win something would be simply life changing – my ultimate goal right now is to be selected and then it would be to go on and win a medal.”
Ben, who was lined up to receive his honorary doctorate in the annual September Graduation ceremony in 2011, was forced to pull out due to unexpected commitments competing for Team GB abroad. He has represented Britain on numerous occasions including being the youngest rider to represent GB at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and then later representing his country at the 2009 and 2011 European Championships.
More recent accolades for Ben’s show jumping career include finishing as the H&M Leading Rider at the Olympia International Horse Show in London in December last year, after winning the Rolex FEI World Cup Qualifier on his own and Emma and Mike Phillips’ Tripple X. Most recently, Ben has been abroad competing at the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida alongside other potential London 2012 Team Great Britain hopefuls.
Senior Equine lecturer, Pennie Wallace said: “Ben is a real inspiration to all equine enthusiasts in Great Britain and for Writtle College to be able to honour him with a doctorate is really special. We are all really looking forward to the conferment as well as being excited about his show jumping spectacular after the ceremony.”
Pictured - Ben with his University of Essex certificate and first year equine degree students