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…

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What is your role at Hickstead?

My company WHMG is responsible for all the security, stable management, incident management and emergency response at Hickstead - basically keeping everyone safe, sound and happy from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave the showground, visitors and competitors alike.

Whilst I have worked for Hickstead in my current role for nearly 7 years now (having worked on and off for the past security providers on and off for years), my ties to the showground, and to the Bunn family stretch much further back. My mother and Douglas (Bunn) were a couple for a long time, and we moved as a family to live at Hickstead when I was a young teenager - the Bunns are like siblings to me, and I have great memories of running around causing general havoc with my partners in crime Chloe and Daisy (interviewer's note: pointing his finger squarely at me!) in our younger years.

The secret to our job here is that if we do a good job, no one should really notice we're here - good security and management is unobtrusive and goes on quietly and efficiently in the background - until such a time as we need to step forward and manage and resolve any problems that arise.

The two summer shows are some of the biggest outdoor events in the world, and as such there are additional security considerations that must be put in place and considered. The horses too that are put in our care are not just hobby horses, they are serious, professional horses, as well as being seriously valuable, and it is a responsibility we take very seriously. One of the unique facets of our job here at Hickstead is striking the balance between looking after professionals here to do a job, and the many thousands of visitors who come for a day out.

What is the best/funniest bit about the role?
It's a tremendous honour and great feeling to play such an integral role at such fantastic events, and to work with such great teams - both the Hickstead team and my WHMG team. All of our men are ex forces or police force, professional men with a wealth of invaluable experience - I don't thank them enough for the hard work they do, and it really is a privilege to lead them.

The nature of our job is that you spend a lot of time away on the road, and as such you spend an awful lot of time with each other, and many of the WHMG men have become like a second family to me. At the end of the day security is a certain type of work that entails long hours, night work, and often heavy exposure to the elements, but despite this we try and produce a pleasant, productive and professional working environment for everyone. We cover many of the big equestrian events in the UK now, providing stable management as well as security, and I have very much enjoyed getting to know a lot of the top riders, and their teams, so well. It is a great pleasure to work with them when they're "off duty", behind the scenes, and also to see such talent at work.

As you can imagine dealing with as many people as we do, a lot of funny things can happen in the course of a day and a night - not much that I can mention in print though! One incident that does spring to mind and make me chuckle though is that when we introduced mandatory electric wire a few years ago in stallions' stables, for safety, one very worried woman didn't have any and called worried that she would not be allowed access. We spent some time trying our best to organize some for her and come up with a good solution so that she could still come and compete… and it wasn't until she arrived that we realized she was competing in the Miniature Horse showing classes - and her stallion was about a foot high - and not in desperate need of electric fencing to stop him climbing over the top of the ten foot stable!

What is the worst bit about the role?
I love my job but hands down the worst bit is being away from my young family, as my two little boys are only 1 and 3, and my lovely wife Marie. It's tough missing certain milestones of their young lives, but Marie is an incredible mother, and we really try and make it count when I am there. Having Skype these days does help a bit as they get to see my face a bit more when I'm away, but I always try and remember that the whole reason I am out doing what I do is to provide for them and give them the type of life I want for them.

What is your best Hickstead memory?
Chloe Bunn (Breen) winning the Speed Derby on Hoots (her bay mare Citi Dancer). Chloe is like a sister to me, having grown up living with her for a long time, and seeing her win such a prestigious event, and on home turf, was brilliant.

Another win that holds a really special place for me was William Funnell winning the Derby the year that Douglas died (and the day before his funeral) - the Funnells are great friends of the Bunns and we all felt that Douglas was looking down and smiling that day.

Douglas was like a second father to me, having lost my own father Douglas in a hunting accident when I was only 2, and I remember vividly the day my not-so-illustrious showjumping career came to an end. I remember Douglas booming at me across the warm up when I was about 14 and was really struggling to see a stride on the pony I was on at the time - down went my whip in a bit of a tantrum as I thought to myself "well what does HE know anyway"… and from that day on realized that hunting and quad bikes were far more up my street than competitive jumping! Douglas and I laughed about it many times in the years after.

What would you do if you didn't work at Hickstead?
Easy - (fox)hunt all year round. Hunting is one of my great passions, and as a Joint Master of the Meynell and South Staffs, I am rarely happier than fleeing over field and dale.

What are you doing now, less than a week before the show?
We moved on to site yesterday and we are now busy rehearsing emergency procedures with the team, building the security compound, including the security fencing and the installation of CCTV. Hickstead is a working equestrian farm for the remainder of the year, so it's important that we work our way around the perimeter hedging and make sure no naughty horses have put any holes in it during the winter that would compromise security!

 

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