Each week I interview the people behind some of the most interesting and popular equestrian accounts on instagram. This week I’m chatting with Hampshire based Grand Prix dressage rider, trainer and judge, Sara-Jane Lanning, hoping to learn more about the lovely lady behind the lovely, informative and fun @lanningsarajane instagram account.
Tell us a little about you and your horses
Hi, I’m Sara-Jane Lanning a Grand Prix Dressage Rider, Trainer and a List 1 British Dressage Judge from Alton in Hampshire. I currently have 6 horses at home, my 20 year old Grand Prix horse Try Me Once (Theo), 18 year old Mi Amigo (Zoa) who was the 2019 Small Tour Intermediare 1 Champion, Sigurd (Smurf) who is 14 and my new ride and we are currently competing small tour and about to move up to Intermediare 2, 6 year old Breit Fantastic (Henry) who is the quickest learner I’ve ever met, 8 year old Irish skewbald Max for my other half Andrew to have some fun with, and the wonderful Matti who is 29 and still going strong after having a long career as an international Grand Prix horse.
I also get to compete a wonderful mare Dreamcatcher III (Grace) a Connemara cross Irish Draught who won the medium gold freestyle regionals this year followed by a third at the winter championships as well as double Combined Training Champion last year.
How did your horses come into your life?
I first sat on a pony in a Paris theme park and hated it! I was about 8 at the time. I remember thinking ‘dirty smelly thing’, but I was a city girl from a high-rise block of flats and it was a different world!
Then when I was 11 we moved back to England from Paris where I spent my early childhood, to live in the Kent countryside while my father went off to work in Nigeria and felt it wasn’t safe for us to accompany him. I went to watch a friend have some riding lessons. She had been bought a course of six lessons for Christmas and didn’t enjoy it, I think I was given the remaining 4 sessions and took to it straight away!
How long have you been riding?
40 years exactly!
When and where do you ride?
Everyday! I am lucky to have my own yard, ten stables and a great 30 by 60 metre outdoor arena (hand built!). I try to ride in the fields too as much as possible to give the horses variation in their training. I train a huge mix of pupils from prelim to Grand Prix and get to ride all sorts as part of that coaching, as sometimes it’s useful to be able to get on and show a rider what I mean or help a horse who might not understand.
How did you start riding?
As above and after those lessons that I was gifted I carried on at the riding school and was lucky as a pony soon joined the family as my mother had always wanted one and never had the chance herself as a child.
I started doing working hunter pony classes and then joined the Tickham pony club where I was a member of the Dressage, Horse Trials and Show Jumping teams.
Then onto horses and eventing was my real love, as well as a bit of side saddle which I’d love to do again someday. Until working in a dealing yard and I got the opportunity to have some lessons on a wonderfully trained Prix St Georges schoolmaster. After my first taste of flying changes and half-passes I was hooked!
What are you and your horses currently working on?
We are always working on being better! Theo has reached Grand Prix, but I always want to ride a better test, to get a higher score, to improve certain movements. I am always striving to be a better rider. As a high listed judge, I feel my judge training has helped me enormously in understanding what the judge is looking to see and how to present it.
What do you love about riding?
I love the connection between horse and rider. I can’t dance, I’m hopeless and feel like I have two left feet and get too self-conscious to even try but with a good partnership with a horse I then feel like I’m dancing! My absolute favourite is competing in Dressage to music! I love compiling freestyles where you can play to a horse’s strengths and bring out their character with the right music.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
I would love to ride in an international competition. This year I was selected to ride in the Keysoe CDI but sadly Zoa got injured a few weeks before, literally as I was about to sew Union Jacks on my tailcoat! I’m getting older but I’m not ready to stop trying!
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
Definitely! I used to get nervous for the show jumping when I used to event but strangely not for the cross country. Also if you have had a bad time with a tricky horse, I’ve ridden some bad rearers in my time, it does then start to make you lose your nerve and be more careful especially as things start to hurt more as you get older!
How do you deal with them?
Riding less youngsters! Not over feeding! I see far too many people over horsed when I’m teaching on unsuitable horses, or horses who are on totally the wrong diet or routine and I try to learn from that. Also not being too proud to admit defeat and get help when you’re struggling.
Your Top Tip
Spend more money on the right training not buying more horsepower!
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Wouldn’t everybody’s answer be Valegro?
Who is your equestrian hero?
It has to be Carl Hester!
If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?
My late father
Favourite colour horse?
I love the look of a grey but have had too many over the years and don’t want the hard work that goes with it anymore!
Favourite horse event
Royal Windsor is very special and I was lucky to ride in an invitational Advanced Medium Freestyle class in the main arena there on Zoa thirty years after riding in the same arena when it was still grass in the Ladies Hunter Side Saddle!
Easy answer for me! Steak and chips, blue if course!
Favourite way to relax
I never really get time to but curled up on the sofa watching a film would be perfect!