Chelsea's equine pursuits began at the age of 8 at Dulwich Riding School where she was trained by the late Jim Bellman. The same start as Dane Rawlins! She spent seven years working under Jim's strict tutelage and built foundations that she still works from today. While riding at Dulwich Riding School she also rode for an owner in Peckham who kept his three horses down a side alley! She rode these horses all around the streets of London, mostly bareback because the tack kept getting stolen!
''Jim was very strict. He had an army background so I think it's where I get need for a clean and tidy yard and a touch of OCD with the horses!''
When Chelsea left Dulwich she purchased a pony for £300 and transported her from Wales. When the trailer opened a very fluffy filly at just 11 hands walked out. She was basically untouched and within three months Chelsea had broken her in and purchased a second pony, a little Shetland. While in Bexley, Chelsea grasped any opportunity she could to ride and began to jump more substantial fences. When the time was right she sold both her ponies and purchased Santa, a Thoroughbred that could jump the moon. Sadly, it turned out that Santa in fact had broken his shoulder years before so his journey with Chelsea was short lived and he was put to sleep a year later after she bought him.
''I spent hours leading Hazel from my Shetland Rosie through the Bexley Woods.''
Chelsea then embarked on her next adventure where she jumped for a team in La Mouche,France. This was a huge step up in Chelsea's career and gave her an insight into the world of more professional riding. About three months in she had a nasty fall that resulted in her ride breaking her leg. After this Chelsea came home to have some time out of riding and give herself a chance to recover.
After some time away from the horses Chelsea bought her next mount, a 17hh Warmblood that was built like a tank. He carted Chelsea around the arena left, right and centre and being a petite rider, she really struggled to control him. At this point she met her next trainer, Dean Metcalf. Dean was a pivotal point in Chelsea's career as he began to teach her how to really ride and opened up the world of dressage.
They travelled around in the lorry with 3-5 horses all over the country and Chelsea began to really understand ''the dancing horses'.
''Dean taught me to listern to the horse, feel and ride accordingly, my love for training was cemented. He used to get on my Warmblood and float around the arena while I got on and was carted about all over the place!'' It was then I realised I wanted to be able to get on anything and make an improvment.
After a while Chelsea decided to sell her Warmblood as he was simply not the right match at this stage in her riding and was given her next ride. Jimbo, a PSG schoolmaster, he taught her a lot about how to ride the more advanced movements and riding more advanced tests.
Chelsea then began producing and selling horses with her trainer Dean, and it was then another big day came!
Chelsea received a phone call from Dean asking her if she wanted a grey or a chestnut. The grey was described as ''quite nice'' while the chestnut was labelled ''completely nuts''. Naturally, Chelsea opted for the chestnut. That same night Chelsea and Dean travelled two hours to see this ''completely nuts'' horse.
They dragged this little ginger boy out of his stable and Chelsea was legged up on board. To her surprise the horse wouldn't even move forwards and was completely exhausted from his stay at the sales. About an hour later the ''completely nuts'' chestnut was on the lorry, coming home. A moment of madness?
''We boxed the little Chestnut up and paid £1100, this was all the savings I had at the time but Dean assured me we would spin a profit...
Great, I thought! I do like a challenge''
But when Oliver came home he was not the exhausted horse they had seen previously. The first time Chelsea sat on him he got his tongue over the bit, reared and galloped off several times before he began to settle. From day one with Oliver people regarded Chelsea as mad for trying, but Chelsea saw greatness where everyone else saw a ''completely nuts'' horse.
A few months in Chelsea and Oliver hit the competition circuit. Within weeks she was offered £15,000 for him but turned it down, despite Dean telling her to take it. Over the next few months she fell even further in love with the quirky chestnut and the offers kept coming. Dean got more and more irate with her as she let her emotion get in the way of business. At this point, Chelsea felt she needed to set up alone, she didn't want to churn them out for profit, she wanted to make a difference and began to look for a yard away from London.
''I'd had enough of riding up and down the Old Kent Road and decided I needed to get a yard of my own. A yard with space''
So Chelsea opened the gates of Ascot Paddocks, a livery yard that offered everything from DIY to training livery. Things were beginning to fall into place and life was great!
Chelsea then had a horrendous trailer accident, this put a stop to her competing and driving. After a while she began to accept what had happened but still found it hard to deal with and think about. Even now she has to manage her fears when in the lorry.
After Ascot Paddocks, Chelsea ran a small yard taking selected training liveries. She then had some time out to focus on Oliver who was thought to have schizophrenia. Chelsea had to really think "Outside The Box" to train Oliver. She trained him to medium trot whilst out hacking and could not follow the scales of training, it just didn't work for him, Chelsea believed the best way to train this horse was through playing and finding what suited him, not putting on the pressure to stay with conventional methods. This is where Chelsea's training mantra of ''Outside the Box Equine Training'' originates from.
''My mum used to bring my younger sister to the yard and shout to make Oli 'dance'. Daniella was only around 5 and used to squeal with laughter as Oli danced across the arena, half passing & passaging.''
Oliver was a rock in Chelsea's life. She owned and trained him for 10 years and in those ten years of training he gained the full Grand Prix movements within his talents. However, Oliver could not handle competing, he struggled to stay calm! so Chelsea used him for demo's and lectures.
Sadly, Oliver was put to sleep in 2014 after being diagnosed with kissing spines and telling Chelsea he had had enough. Even after the complete heartbreak of losing her best friend, Chelsea continued with the next chapter and opened the gates of OTB once again, offering livery and training.
Oliver will always have a special place at the yard.
''I thought I could ride before I met Oliver, but he is the very reason I am the rider and trainer I am today. He was my teacher, my best friend and I still miss him everyday.''
“Truley great horses are rarely easy horses. They are strong and hot, with quirks that will test you. Horses of a lifetime do exist, but only for those with paitence, skill and the courage to keep going no matter what, only then will you unlock and reveal their brilliance and if you learn from this you will win - in every sense of the word.”
- Chelsea Leadbitter