This week I’m delighted to be chatting with the highly talented young international dressage rider, Claudia Davis. Based with Daniel Sherriff at Bayford Hall Farm in Hertfordshire, Claudia has already competed internationally at Juniors and Young Riders and looks set for a very successful dressage career as she progresses. Read on to discover more about Claudia, her ambitions, and top tips for success
Tell us about you and your horses
My name is Claudia Davis, I am eighteen years old and my main ride at the moment is 12 year old Fergus RT, together we have competed internationally at Juniors and Young Riders and have recently ridden our first Inter 1. Before Fergus, I rode at pony level, competing at a few CDIs which gave me invaluable experience that I took onto horses. This year we bought a foal (Horizon’s D McQueen) sired by Damaschino; I am very excited for his future as he is certainly showing glimpses of his talent already.
How did your horses come into your life?
I was very lucky that my parents bought Fergus from my trainer Daniel Sherriff after I completely fell in love with him when grooming for Dan at competitions. I remember first arriving at Dan’s for a lesson and seeing Fergus in the field saying to my mum “oh my goodness that’s my dream horse!!!”.
It’s still slightly surreal to say that 2 years later he was mine! However, going from a 14.2hh to 18+hh was a huge jump and I’m very grateful for all of the support that Dan has given me, 2 years later and I am still learning things about Fergus every day.
McQueen was definitely not a planned purchase, but most of the best things in life aren’t. After losing our previous foal to colic, his breeder (Mandy Luesley) invited us to meet his baby half-brother (McQueen!). I think it’s safe to say that my mum and I were smitten with Queenie the first time we laid eyes on him, and after that he became the newest member of the team.
How long have you been riding?
Since I was two years old.
When and where do you ride?
Fergus is stabled at Bayford Hall Farm under the watchful eyes of Dan, and I ride him around 6 times a week, depending on our competition and training schedule, as well as some client’s horses at different yards.
How did you start riding?
After ballet and tap classes were clearly not meant to be, my parents thought it would be a great idea to take me to a local riding school to see if that was what I wanted to do. Much to their (and their bank account’s) disappointment I loved it and haven’t stopped since I first saw a horse and said, “mummy up!”
What are you and your horses currently working on?
We are currently working on our pirouettes as they seem to be our nemesis, however I am so happy with our progress as we have improved from getting 4s (and the occasional 1…) to getting 7s. I still feel there is a long way to go with them, but it’s nothing that a little more strength and confidence from both parties can’t help.
What do you love about riding?
I love the connection and trust that you build with your horse, it’s something that no other sport requires to be successful and yet it’s probably the most important factor of any equestrian discipline.
I also love the non-competitive side of riding, I think that I am at my happiest when I’m hacking around the fields or just spending time with my horses.
What would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
I would like to make this my career and carry-on riding for the rest of my life, whether that be at my own place in the future or working for someone. I have always dreamed of riding at a European Championship or Nations Cup, but ultimately my dream is to become a Grand Prix rider, whether that’s in 5 years or 10 years time.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
I used to suffer very badly with nerves, I would just freeze up and become more of a pilot instead of actually riding my test. I was very lucky that my poor ponies used to help me out more than I helped them out, but it’s something that I have overcome and now I am able to hold my horse’s hand when he gets nervous instead of the other way around.
How do you deal with them?
After going to my mental performance coach (Karen Croft at Outward Success) she helped me to become much more present when riding. I’m not quite sure how she did it – I’m pretty sure she’s magic or psychic because I was sure I was a lost cause.
My mum is also a huge factor in keeping me calm before a test, whether that’s making me laugh or saying our little sayings before I go into an arena. For example, she always says to me “trust him, he’s a PSG machine” which puts a smile on my face and helps me to remember how grateful I am to have such a great horse underneath me who always tries his best.
Your Top Tip
I think it’s really important to get to know your horse through and through on the ground before riding; this has made it easier to learn what makes my horses tick, therefore helping me to tailor our training routines to meet both of our needs.
Down the Centre Line
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
I would love to ride Everdale or Valegro, as I am sure everyone would!
Who is your equestrian hero?
I love watching Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, the bond she has with her horses are second to none.
If you could have 5 people to dinner, who would they be?
David Attenborough, Princess Diana, Gordon Ramsey, Freddie Mercury and Piers Morgan.
Favourite colour horse?
Favourite horse event?
CHIO Aachen – I went when I was younger and it was such a great weekend.
Favourite way to relax?
Old Disney films or 90s films in bed with a cup of tea and my dog.
If you enjoyed meeting Claudia you might like to view more dressage rider “chatting with” interviews here You can keep up with Claudia’s progress and check out her instagram page here