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A Q&A with This Esme

This Esme working as media

You may know Esme Higgs, 22, by the name “This Esme.” The British equestrienne, content creator and social media star has over 1.5 million followers and a monthly reach in excess of 10 million. Many of you have asked for more info about this celebrity equine entrepreneur, and we’re here to deliver!

Young Rider sat down with Esme to chat about everything from starting her channel to charity work and amazing adventures on horseback.

Young Rider: How did you get into horses?

Esme: My family wasn’t equestrian at all, unless you count the three donkeys on our small holding.

It was when I was 5 years old that I got to ride at a friend’s birthday party. I remember it felt amazing. I loved having that high-up view and the connection with the pony. I still get that buzz today.

I begged my family for lessons, then at age 8, I got my first pony, Mickey. I still have him today and he featured a lot on the channels—he is a real character!

This Esme with Duke, her adopted Welsh Mountain Pony, and Mickey, her first pony.
Esme with Duke (right), her adopted Welsh Mountain Pony, and Mickey (left), her first pony. Duke pretty much thinks he’s human because he was hand-raised!

YR: How did your social media career begin?

Esme: It wasn’t planned at all. I had a new pony, Casper (that’s him to the right), who was very green. I used to video my riding lessons and show jumping rounds on an ancient iPhone.

I quickly used up all its storage, so I uploaded the videos onto YouTube as a way of storing them to look through later, sort of using YouTube as free cloud storage.

One summer I decided to make a “how to tack up your horse” video, because I came from a non-equestrian background and I know that some riding schools just teach you how to ride and don’t focus much on the care side.

This was the first video of mine that wasn’t just watched by friends and family, and it ended up with around 1,000 views, which at the time was mind-blowing. I really enjoyed making the more structured videos, so I started making more vlogs—not because I thought people would watch them, but because I liked making a video diary for myself.

After my exams at school, I started making videos almost every day. Most I didn’t upload to YouTube because I was too shy, or too scared. I was that awkward age of 16, I couldn’t drive, and I lived in the middle of nowhere, so I made lots of videos of my ponies for fun.

This Esme galloping one of her horses
The mega-popular YouTube star began her channel from the ground up in 2017, and it’s gained an international audience of millions.

I got up to 10,000 subscribers just using my phone, but never thought it would take off like it has and become my full-time job.

You’ve had some incredible equestrian experiences. What are some highlights?

I’ve been so lucky that this is a really difficult question to answer. Highlights would definitely be meeting some of the world’s top riders, riding William Fox-Pitts’ horse Little Fire, visiting Cian O’Connor at Karlswood, and riding with six-time gold medalist and Paralympic athlete Natasha Baker.

I’ve also had some incredible riding experiences, like crossing lava fields in Iceland; riding with elephants, lions and leopards in Botswana; and riding in Utah, which felt like being in the middle of a Hollywood western movie.

A riding safari in Botswana
Esme’s channel has taken her on tons of riding adventures, including a safari in Botswana.

But there’s no feeling like being at home with my “boys” and working with my young horse, Joey.

YR: What’s your favorite part of your job?

Esme: Being able to work with horses every day is a dream come true for me. I’ve also been able to support some amazing charities, such as The Brooke (which provides health care and resources to working horses, donkeys and mules in the developing world), for whom I’m an ambassador.

This Esme with Joey, her young Thoroughbred/warmblood cross
Esme loves being home and working with Joey, her young Thoroughbred/warmblood cross.

Through my YouTube channel, I have worked with World Horse Welfare, which campaigns for equine welfare around the world as well as rehoming abused or abandoned horses.

I met my little Welshie, Duke, on a shoot with World Horse Welfare last year. He had been abandoned at just a day or so old on a mountainside. He now lives with us and is developing into a real character. He was hand-reared, so thinks he’s human. He’s very affectionate—maybe too affectionate at times!

I’m also raising awareness for increasing accessibility and diversity in the equestrian world. I want to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds get into equestrianism.

I’m a patron for a riding charity, Team Tutsham, that does great work introducing young people to riding and caring for horses. There is so much for humans to learn through working with horses that it shouldn’t just be something for the rich.

Team Tutsham, a riding charity
Esme (center) is a patron for a riding charity, Team Tutsham, that introduces underprivileged young people to riding and caring for horses.

YR: What’s your favorite riding discipline?

Esme: I think there will always be a big place in my heart for show jumping, but actually I’m more of an all-’rounder. With the YouTube channel I have tried—sometimes more successfully than others—to put my hand to all sorts of riding styles and sports.

Displaying sidesaddle riding attire
Although she prefers show jumping and dressage, Esme will give anything a go! Here she is after trying out sidesaddle.

I’ve competed in show jumping and dressage, but also love cross-country and hacking out (trail riding) in the country. I’ve tried all sorts of riding, from mounted archery and jousting to barrel racing, pole bending and horse ball, as well as jumping sidesaddle.

There is always something new to try. On my list for this year is driving, and I’m also hoping to do some trick riding, with the goal of getting my stunt rider licence.

YR: Tell us something we might not know about you.

Esme: I have dyslexia, and it was discovered quite late, but it explains why I always felt I had to work twice as hard as everyone else at school. In a way, that has helped me develop the mindset of “don’t give up” and “you can do this.”

I love storytelling through my videos, but this year I’m actually publishing a series of my own story books.

Check out Esme’s YouTube channel or follow her on Instagram @this_esme.

Don’t miss Esme’s favorite horsey tips in every issue of Young Rider! Click here to subscribe so you don’t miss any of Esme’s columns.

Plus, Young Rider is the only North American distributor of official This Esme merch — buy your merch here!

Esme Higgs


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