Five minutes with Bob Ellis

Daisy Bunn is back in the interviewer's chair this week with Hickstead's very own Bob The Buider, world renowned, Olympic course builder Bob Ellis...

bobheadshotstaringjpg

What is your role at Hickstead?

I first visited Hickstead when I was jumping back in 1969, in its very first decade of business, and first came as a course builder in the outer rings in about 1990. I eventually moved to the main ring as a builder under John Doney.

All these years later I am now the Senior International Course Designer, which broadly means I am responsible for all the courses that take place in the international arena and also for the course designers in the 4 national rings. Not to forget of course my very demanding role as Entertainments Manager in the course builders' and arena party's famous marquee in Dingly Dell (interviewer's note: a wooded encampment next to the main ring, of top of the range - and not so top of the range - caravans, which like a well-oiled travelling circus, travel from show to show practically in convoy throughout the long summer season.)

What is the best / funniest bit about the role?

The other course builders think I'm the funniest bit! The best bit is of course having the best seat in the house, close to all of the action (interviewer's note: during competitions Bob can be found in the centre of the main ring in the Judges' Pen, fondly renamed now as the play pen!) and the privilege of being intrinsically involved in creating the sport at one of the premier shows in the world.

What is the worst bit about the role?

Hands down, the hours! We have very early mornings, and very late nights, and in all weathers (!) - we just begin our build for the following day as everyone else goes home! This result in eating and drinking very late at night, and somehow the morning comes very quickly!

What is your best Hickstead memory?

My best personal memory of Hickstead would have to be winning the now defunct Hickstead Team Chase in 1972 - a nail-biting race over the enormous hedges and ditches across the estate.

My other best memory would have to be Vital winning the Derby with the late Joe Turi in 1990 - I had bought him as a young horse in Holland, broken him, and started him off and Michael Bullman spotted him at a small show back home and bought him off me immediately - the rest is of course history! (Interviewer's note: Vital and Joe went on to compete at the Olympics and won a European Championship Team Gold medal, but Joe always described his Derby win as the favourite of his illustrious career).

A great friend of mine, I shall always remember fondly being under the watchful eye of the Master of Hickstead, Douglas Bunn. Each time the phone rang in the International Arena we would look up to his box balcony to see if he was there, as if he was we knew it would be him calling with some more orders: "where are the gates? Where are the walls? Where are the triple bars?" Later on, as his eyesight began to worsen, I would have to pick him up in my buggy and drive him around the ring and show him the course - some very happy memories.

What would you do if you didn't work at Hickstead as a course builder?

My life's great ambition is to be the Wolverhampton Wanderers coach driver. (Interviewer's note: Bob is as famous for his fanatical love for Wolves as he is for his course designing!)

What are you doing now, six weeks out from the first show?

I am in fact currently doing course plans for other shows - they come in turn, and Hickstead is my next but one to sit down and concentrate on. A prerequisite of this job is a lot of time spent away at shows internationally and I have to juggle actually building at the shows, with creating and submitting the designs for upcoming shows.

I never look at last year's course plans when beginning to design for a show as it gives me too many ideas of what we did last year and it can be distracting. I tend to sit down with a blank piece of paper, draw some lines that I want to use and make that into the main course, and then put the three or four other courses for that day in around it.

The materials have changed an awful lot over the years, from very heavy materials in deep cups, to the lighter material we use now in very shallow cups. Another element that didn't use to exist but is very much a part of the job now is incorporating sponsors' branded fences into the courses, and I am always involved in the design of these fences with the shows and sponsors from the beginning, to ensure that they are as versatile as possible, with as much material as possible, to help aid, rather than limit our job.

This article was first published in May 2014.

1976-79-eddie-macken-boomerangjpg

The nation's favourites

Earlier this year, we asked you to vote for your favourite Derby-winning horses. Victoria Spicer counts down your top 10. 

Read more

cp1_9607-01jpg

William Whitaker: How to win the Derby

The 2016 Hickstead Derby winner William Whitaker shares his winning formula! 

Read more

sjh_8226-medium-jpg

William Whitaker: Advice for Hickstead newcomers

If you haven't ridden at the All England Jumping Course before, reigning Hickstead Derby champion William Whitaker shares his insights into competing here.

Read more

6dhb_5414willwhitderbypromolesson130317-c-honeybunnphotographyjpg

William Whitaker: The perfect warm-up

The current Hickstead Derby champion William Whitaker explains how to nail your warm-up routine, both at home and at competitions. 

Read more

90dhb_7244derbypromo130317-c-honeybunnphotographyjpg

William Whitaker: Winning a jump-off

Want to nail those jump-off rounds? Hickstead Derby 2016 champion William Whitaker shares his advice, and suggests two training exercises to improve your performance against the clock. 

Read more

19dhb_5523willwhitderbypromolesson130317-c-honeybunnphotographyjpg

William Whitaker's training secrets

In the run up to this year’s Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting, reigning Derby champion William Whitaker shares his showjumping training insights.

Words by Victoria Spicer, photos by Daisy Honeybunn

Read more

derby-sat2013sam-3131jpg

6 links between Hickstead and the Grand National

The home of British Showjumping and the most famous race on earth have more in common than you might think, writes Victoria Spicer...

Read more

470a7706jpg

A winning debut

Chloe Winchester, winner of the Templant Events Queen Elizabeth II Cup in 2015, chats to Victoria Spicer about her winning debut at Hickstead

Read more

470a9752jpg-1

Elizabeth the first

Last year Elizabeth 'Beezie' Madden became the first woman ever to win the Longines King George V Gold Cup. In 2015, she did it again. Hickstead's Press Officer Victoria Spicer caught up with America's first lady of showjumping. 

Read more

whitaker-12-jpg

12 moments we loved at this year's Derby meeting

There was rain, there was mud, but much more importantly there was some brilliant competition at this year's Equestrian.com Hickstead Derby Meeting. We choose our top 12 moments from this year's show. 

Read more

jp_b1743-large-jpg

Back on top

Hickstead Press Officer Victoria Spicer chats to the connections of Loughnatousa WB, a horse who holds a very special record in the Derby...

Read more

corrada-02jpg

Three in a row

Journalist Andrew Baldock takes a look back over the Hickstead archives at the three riders who have won the Derby three times in succession - and finds out which other riders came close...

Read more

jp_a1891-large-jpg

A cool guy

Victoria Spicer chats to Guy Williams, the winner of the 2015 British Speed Derby, about setting records and why Hickstead will always be special to him

Read more

2014derbysun-0171jpg

Eight great Derby rivalries

There have been some amazing clashes in the 56 years of the Hickstead Derby. Pippa Cuckson takes a look at some of the great rivalries over the years...

Read more

2014derbysun-6012jpg

Breen’s Derby dream comes true

Hickstead's Press Officer Victoria Spicer chats to the 2014 winner of the Equestrian.com Derby, Trevor Breen. 

Read more

10499590_10152593085572845_1006106591594047306_o-medium-jpg

Five Minutes with Fran Callan

Continuing our new Five Minutes With... series, we caught up with Fran Callan, the head travelling groom for Trevor Breen. As part of her job, she looks after Hickstead megastar and reigning Equestrian.com Derby winner Adventure De Kannan...

Read more

derby-sun2013sam-3916jpg

Miller's tale

Victoria Spicer meets Phillip Miller, winner of the 2013 Hickstead Derby, to talk about his rise from riding school lessons to Hickstead champion. 

Read more

hdc13phillaughjpg

A lesson with Derby winner Phillip Miller

When we ran an exclusive Hickstead Derby Community competition to win a lesson with the 2013 Derby winner Phillip Miller, we had a great response. In the end, we selected 25-year-old Jodine Brooks from Kent and her seven-year-old Dutch gelding, Camorasun.

Read more

dougsidewaysjpg

Five minutes with Douglas Hinckley

Hickstead Director Daisy Bunn continues her 'Five Minutes With' series with Douglas Hinckley, the managing director of WHMG, the firm responsible for all of Hickstead's on-site security and stable management…

Read more

2014derbysun-5998jpg

15 facts about the Derby course

From poles that 'twang', resident newts and motorway fences turned into showjumps, Victoria Spicer investigates 15 things that you might not know about the most famous course in British showjumping...

Read more

philip-miller-hdc-selfiejpg

Five minutes with Phillip Miller

Her latest victim in the 'Five Minutes With Series…', Daisy sits down with natural born comedian and Hickstead Derby superstar, 2013 winner Phillip Miller…

Read more

bobheadshotstaringjpg

Five minutes with Bob Ellis

Daisy Bunn is back in the interviewer's chair this week with Hickstead's very own Bob The Buider, world renowned, Olympic course builder Bob Ellis...

Read more

image3jpg

10 iconic Derby moments

Last seen disappearing into our dusky archives, Hickstead Press Officer and journalist Victoria Spicer has put together a review of 10 of our most iconic Derby moments over the years, specially for our HDC members. 

Read more

stevewildewithmicfrontbankjpg

Five Minutes with Steve Wilde

Continuing our new Five Minutes With... interview series, Hickstead Director Daisy Bunn sits down with Hickstead's 'golden tonsils', commentator and Director of Ceremonies Steve Wilde...

Read more

daisyjpg

Five minutes with Daisy Bunn

As part of a new series, exclusively for our HDC members, Hickstead Director Daisy Bunn is going to catch key members of the Hickstead team for mini 5 minute interviews, to give our members a unique, behind-the-scenes take on everything Hickstead. Who better to start with than Daisy herself!

Read more

jwhitwinningderbypng

The best of the best

Equestrian journalist Charlotte Ricca-Smith asks Hickstead Derby winners to name the performance - apart from their own! - that impressed them most. 

Read more

paulbeechernoflagsjpg

A Hickstead first

In 2013, Paul Beecher became the first person to produce a clear round having been drawn first to go in the Hickstead Derby, then go on to win the class. Victoria Spicer spoke to him about his achievement.

Read more

bwharveybankpng

A National treasure

Harvey Smith is the only man to have won both the Hickstead Derby and trained a Grand National winner. Victoria Spicer reflects on his remarkable achievement.

Read more

london2012goldwinnerspng

Olympic heroes

Did you know that three out of the four showjumping gold medallists from London 2012 are past winners of the Hickstead Derby? Victoria Spicer catches up with them to find out what those wins meant.

Read more

FOLLOW US

CONTACT US
 

THE ALL ENGLAND
JUMPING COURSE
HICKSTEAD
WEST SUSSEX
RH17 5NU
UNITED KINGDOM

Tel: +44 1273 834315
Fax: +44 1273 834452