Over the past six years, Jake Hunter, our highest ranked under-25 rider, has surrounded himself with some of the best in the sport and is ticking off goals in Europe — including a recent debut on the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) circuit.
Jake grew up over 16,000km away from his current base in Belgium, in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, where he began riding as early as he can remember and as a kid travelled to shows nearly every weekend. “I grew up around horses and they have been part of my life since before I was even born. My mother was a very successful rider herself,” says Jake, referring to Australian jumping legend, Gail Hunter (nee Powell), who competed at World Cup level and was Australian Champion in the 1990s.
Jake names his mother as his biggest equestrian mentor and primary coach growing up, and he isn’t her only successful student — 2018 World Equestrian Games competitor Rowan Willis is one of many who have gone on to have very successful careers following her tutelage.
Jake began competing at age seven and had many good horses and ponies. “I’m lucky I had great horses as a kid. My earliest memories of real competitions are with Imperial Express (aka Otto). He was a horse that I had a lot of fun with and I guess made me fall in love with the competition side of things.”
With younger brother Cade in the saddle as well, Jake had every reason to enjoy a childhood around horses. Cade remains a very competitive rider in his own right, and is currently competing in Young Rider classes in Australia. Since Jake’s departure to Europe six years ago, Cade has continued with some of the family’s younger horses they bred. “He’s had a lot of success and is doing a really good job with them,” says Jake.
During his school years, Jake says he knew he always wanted a career with horses. “I never really had much interest in doing anything else. Also, I was never much good at anything else!” he laughs. As a young rider, Jake enjoyed much success and even competed internationally. In 2008 at age 12 he contested the FEI World Children’s Jumping Final (for riders under 17) in Bogota, Colombia, where he was one of the youngest competitors. It made him the youngest Australian ever to represent the country in show jumping. Gaining a first and third placing, he was ranked ninth overall.
In 2011, Jake was the Champion Junior Show Jumping Rider at both Melbourne and Sydney Royal Shows with thoroughbred Midnight Rock, aka King — with the Sydney accolade becoming a family tradition, later being collected three times by Cade. The following year, Jake and King won the Australian Junior Show Jumping Champion title, following in the footsteps of his mother, who was the inaugural Junior Champion exactly 30 years earlier in 1982. A super horse, King went on to partner with Cade around the young rider circuit.
Two years later, Jake again stepped out on the world stage at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, and brought home a bronze medal in the Individual Show Jumping event riding a seven-year-old mare named For The Star — a moment that remains one of his career highlights, and set the wheels in motion for a career abroad.