This week I’m chatting with eighteen year-old international dressage rider, Betsy Smetham. Currently based in Bath where she combines studying at university along with riding, Betsy is currently competing at PSG and is looking to progress further this year. Read on to discover more about Betsy, her ambitions, and top tips for success
Tell us about you and your horse
My name’s Betsy and I’m an eighteen year-old dressage rider, currently in my first year of studying Management at the University of Bath. I’ve ridden internationally at Pony and Junior level and hope to campaign at Young Rider level over the next 3 years. My current horse is a 16.2hh KWPN mare by Jazz, called Gursonne (better known as Sonna to her friends!), and I’ve been lucky enough to own her for just over two years. We’re currently competing at PSG and hoping to do our first Inter 1 in a few weeks’ time.
How did your horse come into your life?
Sonna came into my life through a bit of fate – I was out and about trying horses and had the chance to try her. I fell in love straight away, but she sadly got sold before I could try her again. Through no fault of her own, Sonna and her new rider just didn’t click and so I was able to try her again. I was still in love and so she came home with us.
When and where do you ride?
I’m so lucky that I was able to move Sonna up to Bath from Kent when I moved to university, so we’re now based with Elder Klatzko at her yard which is about 25 minutes away from the university. I don’t get to ride as often as I used to as I’m much busier with university work, but I try to get down to the yard about 3 times a week. I’m so grateful to Elder who helps with Sonna’s training when I’m not there, and our training has come on so much since being based with her.
How did you start riding?
I’ve been riding for as long as I can remember. My mum used to ride before she had children, and so my sister and I were always taken to the riding school for lessons. We got our first pony to share when I was about six, and shortly after my sister gave it up. I kept up with it and eventually fell in love with dressage when I had my gorgeous Welsh pony called Rascal.
What you and your horses currently working on?
Currently we’re working on stepping up the PSG movements to the Inter 1 movements, so turning our half pirouettes into full pirouettes and working on the 2x tempi changes. She’s such a clever horse and loves her training, so the more challenging it gets the more she wants to please. I just love that about her.
What do you love about riding?
I love the partnership I’ve built with the ponies and horses I’ve had the pleasure to ride. There’s just something so special about the connection you build with them. I also love the stress relief it brings. Especially when I was doing my A levels last year and when I’ve been busy with coursework at university, it’s so nice being able to take a break and just go and spend time with the horses.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
I would love to be able to work within the equestrian community one way or another, whether that’s as a rider or more behind the scenes. I’m also really into social media management which I hope I’ll be able to do in the future. In terms of riding goals, I’d love to be able to train up to Grand Prix with Sonna and compete at that level.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
Whilst I’ve always been a confident rider in terms of riding naughty horses, people close to me know that I’ve really struggled with competition nerves over the last few years. I just used to find the whole competition atmosphere really intimidating, always worrying about other people’s opinions of my riding and doubting my own riding ability.
How do you deal with them?
I had the chance to speak to a few sports psychologists over the years who’ve really helped me to overcome my negative thoughts surrounding my riding, as well as my close friends and my mum who’ve supported me so much. I still get nervous when I compete now, but it’s much more ‘positive’ nerves in that I just really want to do well and do my horse justice. My mum plays a huge part in keeping me calm when I’m warming up, because she’s always so prepared and makes me laugh.
Your Top Tip
Of course, everyone’s different in how they like to prepare for a test, but my top tip to prepare is to just make the whole experience so much more relaxed – I listen to music whilst I tack up, I chat with my mum and my friends, and have a laugh before I get on board to help me stay relaxed when I compete.
Down the Centre Line
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Would have to be Glamourdale at the moment – his power is just insane!
Who is your equestrian hero?
I absolutely love Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl and the way she trains her horses, and Catherine Dufour too.
If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?
Honestly, I’d probably most want to have dinner with my closest friends! Anna Dalrymple, Maisie Hodge, Claudia Davis, Ollie Gould and Chloe Hill, all dressage friends of course!
Favourite colour horse?
Favourite horse event?
Favourite way to relax?
Sitting in bed watching Netflix or going out with my flatmates.
Top Gun Maverick
If you enjoyed meeting Betsy you might like to view more dressage rider “chatting with” interviews here You can keep up with Betsy’s progress and check out her instagram page here