Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping


Interview with Joseph and Mark Stockdale

(Photo: YRA) | (Photo: Nelson Chenault) (Photo: YRA) | (Photo: Nelson Chenault)

Brothers Joseph and Mark Stockdale are both up and coming stars of their respective sports – Joseph in show jumping and Mark in golf.

They have incredible sporting heritage with their late father, Tim Stockdale, representing Great Britain at the 2008 Olympics in show jumping.


Please could you both introduce yourselves and quickly tell us a little bit about your career so far

[Joseph Stockdale]: I'm Joseph Stockdale. I'm 24-years-old from Northampton and I am an international show jumper. In 2022, I was part of the British team that won a bronze medal at the FEI World Championships in Herning, and I hope to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games this summer. 


[Mark Stockdale]: My name is Mark Stockdale. I'm 19-years-old, also from Northamptonshire. I'm currently on the men's golf team at the University of Central Arkansas, as well as in the England Men's golf team. I aspire to be a professional golfer, and I am currently ranked 320th in the world.  


What do you think you have learned from your respective sports – what are the similarities and differences? 

[Joseph Stockdale]: I think the similarities are that it can be very frustrating. Mark has ridden and I have also enjoyed playing golf. Especially at the top level of sport, it is extremely difficult. With the horses you have so many ups and downs – it is a real roller coaster. From my amateur perspective in golf, it is a mentally frustrating game and you are battling against yourself. In show jumping, we are almost lucky that we have other factors to contend with, for example, the horse. Golf is a very individual game and there is only really yourself to blame. So, I think mental strength is one of the most important things that you can learn from both of the two sports.


[Mark Stockdale]: I would agree with that. I would say staying patient and trusting in the work you put in. These things take time and you have to have plenty of resilience to get there. The sports are very different, but very similar at the same time. You have to be very patient. You are not going to be the best in the world overnight, you have to keep going day by day. 


[Joseph Stockdale]: I think the core value of any sort of top-level sport is that it is not necessarily about what you do or the outcome, but the mental side of it and the perspective you have from a performance. I think you can compare this even though they are two completely different sports.  


Do you think that the relationship between a caddy and a golfer could be comparable to a groom and a rider?

[Mark Stockdale]:  I think it's definitely got some very similar factors. The trust is going to be there. For Joe, he has to trust Charlotte [his show groom] to make sure the horses are as well prepared as possible and on top form to compete. I have got to have that trust with my caddy that we are both going out there with a certain mindset and goal. When we are talking about certain aspects of the round we have to be on the same wavelength, we cannot be arguing with each other. But at the end of the day when Joe enters the ring or I am hitting the shot, the groom or the caddy are out of the equation, they have done their part and it is down to the individual to go and perform in the moment.


[Joseph Stockdale]: I think there is a large similarity between the two. Like Mark said it is all about trust. It takes such a weight off your mind when you know that you have someone behind you that you can trust to get you to where you need to be. It is so important to have someone to be able to bounce ideas off – so with Mark with his caddy, he can ask: ‘What do you think about this shot?’, and even if the caddy just says that is a great idea, it gives you that extra bit of confidence. For me, when I am in the warm-up with Charlotte, and ask: ‘How did he jump that last vertical’, and she says it was perfect. Even if it is just a mental thing for us, it gives you that next bit of confidence to trust your process and what you are already doing. It helps with your mental strength and gives you an extra layer of confidence and backing before you go in the ring or you take that shot on the course.  


Can you tell us about your team, and how important they are in your success? 

[Joseph Stockdale]: I have a great team behind me. My team spans a huge amount of people, it is not just the people working on the yard every single day, but it is the vets, farriers, physiotherapists, and many more. When you think of how wide my team spreads, there are a lot of people who help make it all happen. I have recently been reading a lot of sports psychology books, and reading about cyclists when they talk about making everything 1% better. Your team can escalate you so much – if you improve yourself by 1% in every area it makes a huge difference overall. That is certainly what we are aiming for, making everyone push to be that 1% better. I must say that the team and the people around me are incredible – they put 110% in their work every day and I cannot thank them enough. I would not be where I am today without them.


[Mark Stockdale]: I would say the same thing. I would not be in the position I am today without them, whether is it family members or anyone else. For me, being in golf is a sport which as a family we did not have any prior knowledge about, and so everything we do, we do it together and it is a constant learning phase. There have been plenty of hardships that you need to be able to talk about and learn from, so that has been a big part. I also have incredible support from the university, for example, today I am meeting with my trainers so that I am in peak physical condition to go and play. England Golf is also helping me play in the best tournaments and compete at the highest level possible. Even looking at the manufacturers of my golf clubs, there is a long list of people who without them, I would not be position that I am. 


Can you explain how important Majors, such as CHIO Aachen in show jumping, and The Masters in golf are to not only your respective sports but to their external image 

[Joseph Stockdale]: Within the sports, those are the events to go to. For show jumpers, when we speak about going to a Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major such as the CHIO Aachen or The Dutch Masters, we speak about them as the best in world – they are massive and spectacular events.

I think that the greatest example is that if I am speaking with any of my non-equestrian friends I can list the names of different shows, they do not understand, but when I say that I am going to a Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major, they immediately have an understanding and level of respect. That is the legacy that Rolex has around those shows. 

For us riders, they are the biggest of the biggest shows, they have the best prize money and they are the ones that everyone wants to win. They are where you get the top-level sport. 


[Mark Stockdale]: It is the same in golf, people hear The Masters and they understand the prestige and history around it. They would know people that have won the tournament even if they are not a golfer themselves and they would know about the ‘Green Jacket’. I think the Majors bring together people who maybe aren’t usually interested in the sport – they can see the prestige, and I think that is incredibly important to the sport. 

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping provides the opportunity for young riders to compete. How important is providing the next generation with the opportunity to compete amongst the best in the world 


[Joseph Stockdale]: I think it is what helps you step up to the next level. Just jumping at the normal 5* shows, the fields of riders just aren’t as strong as what you get at the Rolex Grand Slam Majors, the fences aren’t quite as big, and the courses aren’t as technical. So as a young rider, when you go to Major for the first time and it is quite a shock to the system. 

I think you do most of your learning when you are slightly out of your comfort zone. The first time I went to the CHI Geneva, I loved it – it was an incredible experience. You are there with the best in the world, there is not one top rider who is not there, they all have their best horses and are all there to win it. The jump-offs that you get in the classes are sensational – you just do not get that at the other shows. You might see one person do an incredible round in a month of shows, but at the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHI Geneva in 2022 we saw five riders one after another going as fast as they could, and every rider you watched you thought that they could not be beaten, and then they were. It was the best of the best sport, not only for the spectators but as a learning experience for me. I learned so much from that experience. To have that opportunity as a young rider has been so valuable, and so it is a credit to the Majors to provide that chance for young riders. I am not sure where I would be if I did not have those opportunities – they really elevated my game so much.  


Having grown up in an equestrian family, what led you to your passion for golf, and do you think you take any lessons from your upbringing around horses into your golfing career?

[Mark Stockdale]: I just started playing golf as a casual thing. My mum and dad played, and Joe had lessons alongside them , so they would go and play my dad was back from shows. I wanted to learn so that I could spend time with them – I had a few lessons and immediately the competitive side kicked in. I had to practice to try to be better than them and beat them. I picked it up quite quickly and started to play in some tournaments and just fell in love with the process of practicing and improving. It is one of those sports that is so frustrating – you think you have it and then you go out the next day and you have lost it. The endless pursuit of getting better is what I really love. 

From my family, I learned you cannot take a day off. You have to ride every day, you cannot just leave a horse in the stable you have to constantly work. When my dad and Joe would ride, I would go off and practice and focus on my craft. That is the main thing I learned, but you have to have a lot of resilience. You are going to have hard times, but if you stay focused on the same goal and keep working every day you will get there. 


You come from an incredible sporting heritage, with your father competing at the Olympics. What lessons did you learn from him?

[Mark Stockdale]: I have learned so much from him. I think about the stuff he taught me on a daily basis. Even as simple as how he interacted and treated people – whether it was kids asking for autographs or the way he had a conversation with people. When he was at shows he walked around and everyone knew him, and he knew everyone’s names. What I learned is that you have to build relationships with people to earn their respect. He was so dedicated and so hardworking, and to me, that is just the base standard of how you have to be. You have to be 100% dedicated to what you want to do, do not take no for an answer for things, and really fight for it. 


[Joseph Stockdale]: I agree with Mark. He was so resilient and stubborn. If it was not going right or he was not winning, he wouldn’t ever back off, he would put more into it. He was always working his hardest and trying to find a way to get back to winning. He was so determined, if it was not working he was going to make it work, and he was going to find a way to get it over the line to get the result that he wanted. Even if we half have the idea that we might want to quit we always have his voice in the back of our minds saying: ‘You have to keep going and keep trying to find a way’. He is a great motivation to the two of us. 


If you could win one of the sporting Majors, which one would it be and why?

[Joseph Stockdale]: In my own sport I would love to win the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen. It is such a special Grand Prix, with multiple rounds, and everyone talks about how big and difficult it is. The CHIO Aachen has such an incredible grass arena with so much amazing heritage to it – it would be a dream to win there. In golf, I would have to say The Masters. To win the ‘Green Jacket’ and play the course at Augusta would be phenomenal. 


[Mark Stockdale]: I would also have to say The Masters. In golf, it is the closest thing to perfection, velvet green fairways cut to perfection. In a non-perfect sport, it is the closest thing, and the image around it is unbelievable. When you see the players putting on the ‘Green Jacket’ at the end of it is what the image of golf for me growing up was.

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