We are very excited to announce this month’s Rider of the Month. In this exclusive interview, Sarah provides valuable insights into her journey, experiences, and the essence of her connection with her equine partner. From her earliest inspirations to her most cherished achievements, Sarah offers a candid glimpse into the dynamic and competitive realm of show jumping.

Throughout our conversation, Sarah reflects on the highs and lows of her career, sharing memorable moments that have shaped her as a rider. From the exhilaration of clear rounds to the challenges of overcoming setbacks, she provides a nuanced perspective on the realities of pursuing excellence in the sport. With humility and determination, Sarah offers practical advice for aspiring riders and emphasizes the importance of dedication, resilience, and above all, the profound bond between horse and rider.

1.What inspired you to pursue Show Jumping as a discipline?

I love the adrenaline and competitive nature of show jumping. The thing that excites me most is getting to compete against some of the best adult riders in the country. Nothing is guaranteed and when you finally achieve that clear round, everything feels so worth it. Hard work and dedication pay off.

I started horse riding when I was three years old and getting an opportunity to compete at this level and achieve my goals is really a dream come true.


2. Can you share a memorable moment or achievement in your show jumping career that stands out to you?

Coming second in the Adult 1.30m Championship at Steyn City in September 2023 will always remain one of my favourite moments with my horse, Locarno Kir Royal, aka Karl. We both felt so in sync. I will also never forget my first 1.30m and 1.35m rounds.  I still cannot believe that the little girl who started riding horses at 3 years old has made it into the open levels. My biggest achievement would be personally rehabilitating my horse back into working after a superficial tendon injury which took us out ofcompeting for fourteen months.


3. What qualities do you look for in a successful show jumping horse, and how do you develop a strong partnership?

When it comes to choosing a successful showjumping horse, I have found that I am drawn to the horses that have quirky personalities and who have no hesitation in taking you to the fence. I love horses that are brave and try their best in everything they do. In terms of developing a strong partnership, I believe spending time with your horse is one of the most important aspects in taking that step towards a lifetimebond. This doesn’t necessarily mean riding your horse every day, but tacking up yourself each time you do, and by so doing knowing when they are feeling out of sorts. Time spent taking them for walks, grooming or just sitting in their stable is also special bonding time. By spending time with your horse, you can learn so much from their different behaviour patterns and how they think in different situations. Its also very important to trust one another when jumping in the bigger grades.


4. How do you prepare both mentally and physically before a competition, and do you have any specific rituals or routines?

The week before a show consists of one or two jumping lessons, lots of flatwork and long walks around the plot. I really like to spend as much time with Karl as I can before a show to make sure he is calm and responsive. We really enjoy our walks and downtime whenever possible. In terms of mental preparation, I like to drive myself to shows, that way my mind is not so focused on the show. I am an anxious person, so I listen to lots of music and watch all my old competition videos as a distraction. In terms of rituals, I always put on my left boot first and wear bracelets on my left wrist.


5. In the fast-paced environment of show jumping, how do you handle pressure and stay focused in the ring?

I walk the course with my instructor, Nicola-Sime Riley, watch a few riders and then go through the course on my own mentally without fixating on too many details. I then listen to music and go and tack up my horse to give us both sufficient time to warm up and focus on each other. I am still working on my show nerves, but the more shows you go to, the easier it becomes.


6. Are there specific training techniques or exercises that you find particularly effective in improving your performance as a show jumper?

I find poles on the ground or on cavaletti’s effective. I change the distances between the poles to lengthen and shorten the strides, this really helps my horse become responsive. I find flatwork to be very important for a showjumper. It gives the horse the ability to become fitter in their own bodies and for the rider to gauge how the horse feels in different exercises or just in general in their different gates. I have a lesson with my coach, Nicola, and she guides me when navigating courses or exercises. I find that strength training is also very effective for my horse and myself. I gym three to four times a week to be fit for the open classes.


7. What advice would you give to aspiring show jumping riders who are looking to excel in the sport?

My advice to aspiring show jumping riders would be to find the right coach that has the well-being of you and your horse in mind. Your coach must push you, but also encourage you to achieve your full potential. Coaches can define a rider’s career whether it be good or bad.

My advice would be to remember why you started this sport in the first place. We all get caught up in the thrill and the falls of this very demanding sport, but it all comes down to the love we have for the horse and the amazing opportunities that they give us every time we climb into the saddle. Their well-being comes first. I would also advise an aspiring show jumper to ride as many different horses as possible. The more horses we ride, the more experienced we become in different situations. The most difficult horses have always taught me the most and improved my riding tenfold.


8. Who is the rider you admire the most and look up to?

I have to say the rider I admire the most is my coach, Nicola-Sime Riley. I moved to Sunny Park Stables at the end of 2018 and at the time was only jumping 80cm. Nicola coached me through the grades, and I am now competing in the adult classes at 1.35m. Nicola has taught me everything I know and made me the rider I am today and for that I couldn’t be more grateful. She has seen me at my worst and my best and pulled me through it all. I admire how she rides so many horses with different personalities and styles and still manages to bring out the best in each one of them.


9. How do you approach course analysis, and what factors do you consider when strategising your ride in a competition?

I always walk the course with my coach, and we discuss the best approaches to take to the jumps, bearing in mind both Karl’s and my abilities and what we can achieve.


10. As a show jumper, how do you balance the competitive nature of the sport with the well-being and care of your horses?

I prioritise my horse’s well-being over everything else. Without him I wouldn’t be where I am in this sporttoday. Being an older horse, I limit the number of competitions to only one or possibly two a month. After competitions I focus on light work and working through any stiffness for a day or two. Thereafter, we slowly get back into flatwork and jumping. The physiotherapist comes out regularly to work on him and to make sure he has no discomfort or any areas that need attention. We are fortunate enough to stable at Zambezi Equestrian Centre where we can go on long stretched out walks.  His diet is well balanced, and he receives outstanding care from all grooms and stable members.


11. What is your favourite Equine Culture product?

I love the Kinetic Hybrid Breeches. They are very comfortable and fit perfectly. The material is light weight, and the colours are beautiful. I also really love the Marvellous UV shirt Range because they are breathable, comfortable, and made with quality fabric. Both products are stylish and neat.

A big thank you to Sarah for taking the time to be part of this segment. To follow Sarah check out the links below. 


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