Ask Georgie and Jesse Campbell for their highlight of 2020 and neither hesitate for a moment. “Getting married!”
But being the year of COVID, they faced a few hurdles that were almost bigger than those they tackle when competing in eventing. The couple are now planning an even bigger plans to pull off . . . a nationality switch for the new Mrs Campbell. “We are definitely a team,” says Georgie. “We run everything together and that (becoming a Kiwi) would really solidify that.”
But for now they are basking in the glow of a perfect day and looking forward to a rip roaring party when the rules allow. “While it was much smaller, we would have done everything the same – just on a bigger scale.”
Their meticulously planned wedding faced a postponement, shrunk from 150 guests to just 15 and was shifted from Georgie’s parents property in Kent to Ramsbury Church in Marlborough, where they live.
“We ended up having to have two different dates,” says Georgie. “We must have changed venues about at least 10 times and it was a lot of unknown but we made the decision back during the first lockdown that no matter what, we would try and get married this year – even if it meant having a smaller wedding.”
Georgie was on her hen’s do when the news of the second lockdown came through. “That was really tough,” says Jesse. His own family from New Zealand couldn’t attend either which was another big blow for the couple.
However, the day was still filled with very special moments. “Seeing Georgie walk down the aisle was the highlight for me,” says Jesse. Georgie gives him a ribbing saying he “has” to say that. “I think for me the church service was really special. I was christened and everything but we wouldn’t be like heavy churchgoers but the service was really special. It was lovely and actually having it so intimate where you could take in the meaning of it.”
Jesse says COVID “slightly helped” the couple. “We weren’t obviously allowed to sing in the church and being mindful of numbers we didn’t have an organist but we were able to do a few really nice things.”
As the couple signed the register, they played some of their favourite songs. The church’s theatre-level sound system was also a big benefit. “We were just able to think slightly outside of the box so that was fun,” says Jesse.
With all honeymoon plans on hold they’re dreaming of a sun-drenched holiday. “We are hot-weather lovers,” says Jesse, “so we will try and do something later this year.” The big goal is to head back to New Zealand to celebrate their nuptials with Jesse’s family. It was in Golden Bay that Jesse proposed to Georgie two years ago.
The New Year has brought with it new branding for the couple who will now be known as Campbell Eventing. “We have been set up together for the last two years, so nothing in that aspect with change,” says Georgie.
Their Marlborough base has 100 acres, gallops and all the facilities needed for top level eventing, including 30 stables, two lorries and six staff. Georgie is looking to continue to build up with her top horse Red Hot Cooley who stepped up to 4* in 2020, winning his second advanced at Wellington. “I have a really young team but they are all progressing well. It is very exciting,” she says.
At the top of Jesse’s string are his 5* horses Cleveland and Amsterdam. “They’ve both got a few good years left in them and coming behind is Diachello who was third at Lignieres in the 4* long.”
He’s got two others stepping up to advanced this year and is looking forward to the next few seasons. “It is exciting times,” he says.
The postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games gave Diachello another year to grow. “It is totally out of our hands so you have to roll with the sea for a bit and what will be will be,” he says.
Georgie says the very nature of horses and eventing has made them well-practiced at adapting. “The thing with horses is that you are just always constantly trying to improve and learn more, so an extra year will hopefully do Jesse some favours,” she says. “We are just so lucky to have each other in doing what we do – you always have the other person to support you or pick you up. It is special to be able to share it with someone.”
Their ultimate aim is to have a nice string of horses and owners while constantly bringing on the new generation. They are both hugely competitive and give no concession when riding against each other. Jesse reckons it’s about 50-50 on one-upmanship.
And they are both extremely diplomatic when asked who the better rider is. “I feel like since I have been based with Jesse I have definitely developed as a rider because of him,” says Georgie. Jesse tips his hat to his new wife. “The only evidence I have is that I gave Georgie a horse at the start of last year that I was struggling with and she absolutely nailed it with him – there is no way I could have done that.”
The support each continues to have from each other and their parents is huge. “It is still a struggle (being based in the UK) but I definitely think we are making a huge amount of progress,” says Jesse, a member of the ESNZ High Performance Futures Squad with Cleveland. Jesse says he is inspired by all the Kiwi eventers who have come before him and paved the way in the UK.
Meanwhile, they will continue to push each other and themselves with the Olympic Games the ultimate goal they are eyeing.
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
8th January 2021