This week I’m beyond excited to be chatting with one of the most outstanding young British dressage riders ever. The incredible talented, hardworking and highly intelligent Phoebe Peters. Phoebe has achieved historic sucesses having spent many years on the international dressage circuitat U16 and U18 including twice becoming FEI Pony European Dressage Champion and being ranked FEI World No. 1 . These remarkable achievements are just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more. Read on to discover more about the amazing Phoebe Peters and remember, if you aren’t already aware of this lady, you saw her here first. Phoebe is most definitely worth following.
Tell us a little about you and your horses
I’m Phoebe Peters, aged 21 and based in beautiful South Warwickshire at my family home. I’m currently in the final couple of months of a four-year Modern Foreign Languages degree at Warwick University where I specialise in French and German, with a little Russian thrown in over the first two years of study too.
University has been my main focus for the past few years, and I’ve continued to ride when I can through what I would say has been a huge regrouping and rebuilding phase in my dressage career following seven consecutive years on the U21 International circuit.
My U18s career culminated in an FEI World No. 1 ranking, 33 CDI international test wins, two National Championship titles on ponies and two reserve National Champion titles on horses, and three U16s world records, two of which still stand today.
I was very lucky to experience the sport at top level from a young age, and even through what has been a tough dry spell with time out, those experiences will stay with me for a very long time, and I hope will come in useful one day in the future.
I have six horses at home with me currently, four retired family ponies living their best lives including my first pony, my first international pony and SL Lucci alongside my six-year-old mare Hawtins Fiore (Furstenlook x Belissimo M) and my family friend Vanessa Knights six-year-old gelding Trojaner 9 (Tomahawk x Furstenball) who’s with me until the end of the year when he moves home to Vanessa to continue their exciting career. I also own two three-year-olds Larkshill Supernatural and Nobelle, and a new addition in MFS Frieda born this spring, I’m really excited for the future with all three of them.
How did horses come into your life?
I was introduced to horses by my older sister, she had started riding with a local riding school after discovering horses through an old primary school friend, who was successful in Mountain and Moorland showing. Neither of our parents are horsey, though it isn’t completely distant to the family as my Grandparents, aunty and uncle rode as children, whilst my mum never took to it! They have however thrown themselves into it, and though neither ride, are accomplished horse people both dedicating and sacrificing more than is imaginable to allow me to follow my passion. Our yard at home is thoroughly a family affair, we run six horses with no help or staff, it’s a real team effort.
How long have you been riding?
I began riding when I was four years old at our local riding school, so 18 years now.
When and where do you ride?
Having spent all of my early pre-dressage days with wonderful riding schools and then the vast majority of my dressage days on livery yards, I was lucky enough to move my horses home last summer to our new yard for which I owe a great debt to my dedicated, hardworking, and selfless parents. At the moment I’m riding as and when I can between lectures and revision! Generally, I try and keep a routine for the horses, so I feed and muck out first thing, and then I ride Fury mid-morning before getting back inside to study. We’re glad to see the back of a wet, wild, and windy winter with our school and stables hilltop and exposed to all sorts of weather – it’s character building for horses and humans but is the most beautiful place in the world on a sunny day!
How did you start riding?
Riding life for me began at Fitzworthy Riding School in Devon, I’ve been heavily influenced by dressage-led riding instructors from a young age and really believe that’s how I was drawn towards this side of the sport.
At Fitzworthy I rode some super ponies under the instruction of Rebecca Parry – who I remember travelling to St Leonards to watch in a BD competition many years ago, I would’ve been around four or five at the time, but it’s always stayed with me. My riding at this age was a proper pony club mix of all activities with lots of fun and friends, I leant towards dressage and did my first tests on a super grey pony called Denver – we still have the sheets from this day.
Upon moving to the Cotswolds with my dad’s career I joined another brilliant riding school in Cotswold Riding (formerly Durhams Farm) – I was very lucky to experience another wonderful group of ponies and received coaching from Sue Coombes here, another BD rider. In 2007, my sister found her first pony in Ramnor Beau Supreme, a 13hh New Forest gelding who would really be the catalyst for my dressage journey. With him we moved to Poplars Farm, a local livery yard, and I found Jenny Smith, a yard manager and BD rider who I can say is almost 100% responsible for my career to date. Under her tuition I started on my own first pony, a very challenging Welsh Section B who taught me great stickability and strengthened my biceps and core to as much is possible for a six-year-old child! Our family pony Beau would a year later move into my care with my sister moving on to larger jumping ponies. With Beau (a keen jumping pony and Pony Club eventer at the time) and inspired by Jenny’s own career, dressage became our sole focus. We went from not being able to stay on the bit for an Intro test to placing fourth at the British Dressage National Championships in Elementary Restricted (aged 10) and travelling to Ireland with the U21s group (another key influence on my early career) to experience our first overseas competitions.
What you and your horse currently working on?
I’m currently working with my six-year-old mare Hawtins Fiore (known as Fury) through a recovery program with lots of walking! Having waited a long time to find a horse of my own despite riding many horses for clients and owners after my Junior career, I’ve had to take my time after a small injury in the first couple of months of owning her…horses! But rehab is part of the learning process, I’ve worked hard to maintain her condition on the ground with physiotherapy exercises, carrot stretches, and the correct nutritional input with help from the expert team at NAF, who’ve supported me from the age of 13. It’s not quite training to Grand Prix, nor where I pictured myself after my university break, but I hope that the time and steps I’m taking now will have us back on that road very soon and will protect and strengthen Fury for a long career. It’s quite taboo to talk about injuries, even if minor, but I’m keen to share the hope that I have in Fury with others going through a similar process.
What do you love about riding?
Particularly with dressage I love the precision, power, and harmony. Being able to seamlessly communicate and build a relationship with an animal, with flight instincts and an amazing heritage and history, is a true privilege. It’s very special to experience the bond between horse and rider, not only from the saddle but also on the ground, they’re very generous intelligent animals and teach us so much.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
Over the next couple of years, I’m hoping to enjoy a good start to ridden life for my two three-year-olds Larkshill Supernatural (Secret x Apache) and Larkshill Nobelle (Desperado x Discovery), and a little further down the line with the latest additional to the crew, MFS Frieda (So Unique x Florencio) born this March.
I’d love to be able to represent my country again, with the ultimate goal being the FEI World Breeding Championships for Young Horses. This is one of my favourite shows and having watched some truly amazing horses go through this pathway and now progress to Grand Prix it would be a real dream to have that experience if good luck goes our way. From a career point of view, after taking some time out to ride and take a breath after my degree next year I begin a qualification to teach languages at secondary level. I’m passionate about sharing a skill that was taught very enthusiastically to me at Chipping Campden School and as many riders do, I need an out of the saddle career to be able to maintain and continue my dressage career too.
Back to dressage, Grand Prix is the ultimate goal, starting with a fresh string of young horses means that it’s a long-term aim but it’ll be all the sweeter when I can finally reach it. I was inspired by Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl recently who spoke about starting her career from scratch with her own young horses after success in the FEI U21s ranks – it’s quite a tough mental journey to go from the very top to the bottom and then back up again, but thanks to riders like this we can all see that it’s possible with hard work and dedication.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
I’m very lucky that I’m one of those riders who doesn’t often find myself becoming nervous. I used to, and still find, that I can get quite tense before competitions and pick the work apart in training – but with goal setting, clear planning, and organisation I used to keep these negative thoughts at bay.
I really find I come to my best in the arena and have always enjoyed the pressure competing against both the best in Europe at Pony and Junior level and the brilliant riders on the National circuit, but also myself, striving to better previous scores, produce a better feeling each test and improve my own performance scores and results aside.
I can give only one example of where I’ve been close to nerves in a competition arena, this was at my final Pony Europeans in 2015 (which seems an awfully long time ago now!) and in my last test at the show, the Freestyle to Music Final. This was my last chance to gain a second outright European Champion title and end my Pony career on a high, but I was also carrying the pressure that this may have been the end of the road for SL Lucci and I and would certainly be our last international test together – which is a really strange feeling for any rider knowing that they’re about to say goodbye to their partner. I had slightly nervous flutters around the edge of the arena but as I turned down the centre line, I felt Lucci take the bit and give a strong pull forwards – it reminded me of my job and still I think about how lucky I was to experience such a strong partnership to be able to rely on each other under the most pressured of environments.
How do you deal with them?
I think it’s all about having a team around you to help you deal with your nerves, however you experience them, whether they’re quite common or very rare under specific circumstances.
I have always been able to rely on my family to support me, we’re very close knit and at a competition it was always very clear between us on roles and jobs – being this organised has always helped me manage mindset and performance. When you can trust that everything around you is happening smoothly, even if that’s making a morning cup of tea, filling the lorry up with diesel or holding the fort at home, it all contributes.
I’ve also always been a creature of habit and routine – so I would always watch a particular film the night before competing to help me focus, visualise my tests and prepare rigorously with my long-term trainer Peter Storr. I think if you’ve put 110% into the preparation, set yourself small manageable goals and built a team of trusted people around you, the pressures and external stresses become much easier to control.
Your Top Tip
Remember that the journey you’re on is entirely individual and what matters if the health, welfare and happiness of you and your horse. AND always have goals, short, medium, and long term, and work towards these at a pace that suits you. What worked for me was always having my ‘end goal’ and then planning how to get there through smaller goals so that it becomes achievable, whether this is particular shows, particular training events or just day-to-day improvements at home, it all contributes to long term success.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Dorothee Schneider’s Showtime, and Gestut WM’s Secret.
Who is your equestrian hero?
Anky van Grunsven, my earliest dressage memories are from hours spent watching (on repeat!) her freestyles with Bonfire on an old Thrills and Spills video tape. She changed Freestyle dressage and raised the bar at the time, alongside Isobel Werth who would also be a hero of mine.
If you could have 5 people to dinner, who would they be?
Roger Federer (my all-time sporting hero), Michael McIntyre, Toto Wolf, Princess Anne, and my Grandad Charlie who sadly passed many years ago but would be my first guest for dinner!
Favourite colour horse
Favourite horse event
The World Breeding Championships for Young Horses – this is a dream show for me and I block out my week to watch it every year. This was a close call with Compiegne CDI, the most beautiful venue, and a great competition I was lucky enough to enjoy for several years running.
My mum’s beef stew.
Favourite way to relax
Sleeping! I’m spending lots of time studying at the moment and sleeping is very much my downtime.
I love films so here’s the least quick-fire answer going! RomCom: Notting Hill, the Tourist, La Land Sports films: Jerry Maguire, Wimbledon, Racing Stripes, Fast Girls, Rush, Secretariat, All Harry Potter films! Everyone needs a bit of magic! Men in Black 1,2,3 and International (I’m a sucker for these films and can do impressions from all of them!)
If you enjoyed meeting Phoebe you might like to view more chatting with interviews here You can keep up with Phoebe’s progress on her instagram page here