Hello! I’m Sophie, I’m 32 and I live in West Sussex with my pony Remington. Well, I don’t actually live ‘with him’ (I wish), he lives on a farm a few miles away from my home. I did the traditional thing growing up, school followed by A-Levels and then on to university where I studied Radiography. By this point I was well and truly done with education and keen to travel the world I embarked on a ‘gap year’. One of my friends worked for an airline as Cabin Crew and I thought that sounds like a piece of me, getting paid to travel the world, where do I sign up. Over 10 years later I’m still on that ‘gap year’ and loving every minute.
Remington, Remmi to his friends is a 14.2 11-year-old, piebald, Traditional Gypsy Cob gelding. It always shocks people to learn that he isn’t mine! He has been in my life for 6 years now, I treat him like my own, but he is owned by the same lady who brought him home when he was 5 months old.
How did Remington come into your life?
It was over 6 years ago when I first met him, and it all happened by chance. My first ever ride on him was actually a catch ride at a competition. A quick pop over the warmup jump and I found myself being entered into the Working Performance class (think Working Hunter for coloured ponies). Well, there was no fairy-tale ending to that story. After knocking every single jump and then flatly refusing to jump a corner it quickly ended in elimination!
A few months later my ‘pony’ (he was a 16.2hh TB but I call everything a “pony”) at the time went lame and a friend of a friend said I could very kindly ride her cob. Enter, Remmi. It wasn’t love at first sight! He was the sweetest young cob, who wouldn’t have said boo to a goose. If I’m being totally honest, I found him a little tame. Be VERY careful what you wish for is all I’ll say. Fast forward 6 years and we now have the BIGGEST diva going. Oh, how I long for those sweet, kind, calm days.
How long have you been riding?
On and off since I was 8/9. I was horse mad up until I went university and then I took a 5-year break before getting my own again. I suppose that is the roundabout way of saying, 24 years give or take.
When and Where do you ride?
Rem lives on a working farm with his two buddies Mara and Hardy. We are incredibly lucky to have miles of off road, private riding, more than enough to keep us going on a daily basis. If we fancy something a bit more exciting, then we box up to either the South Downs or West Wittering beach and both are only a stone’s throw away.
When gets a little trickier to answer. Working for an airline and leaving the country for 2/3 days a time does mean that I don’t always get to ride as much as I would like. Most of my rides are fuelled by caffeine after a long night flight home!
How did you start riding?
Like most 8-year-old girls I’m sure, I begged and begged and begged my parents for riding lessons! They finally gave in and I had the best time spending every weekend at the local riding school. Some of my favourite childhood memories were from the stables, working for rides or taking part in the ‘own a pony’ days. Oddly my favourite pony was a Traditional Cob called Pudding – I guess you could say I’ve always had a thing for the fluffy ponies!
What are you and Remington currently working on?
I have 2 aims for 2020.
The first is to enter (and complete – fingers crossed!) a One Day Event. I never thought my first ever event would be on a Traditional Cob, but we have both worked incredibly hard to become more confident when jumping, especially XC.
Secondly, I would love to do some Dressage to Music with him. We have done one music class before which resulted in him bolting off, adding in some freestyle moves and very nearly leaving the arena. Wisely, I made the decision to retire. Rem and I clearly have very different taste when it comes to music, he wasn’t a fan of my Olly Murs compilation!
What do you love about riding?
The freedom and escapism. I always feel incredibly fortunate to be able to saddle up whenever I want and head off out into the countryside, forgetting the world for an hour (or two).
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
Very much exactly what we are doing now – A bit of everything and ‘living our best life’. My favourite thing about Remmi is his willing nature and no matter what I ask of him, even when he isn’t 100% sure he always says yes in the end. This has enabled us to take part in things I could have only dreamed of, so more of the same will be just fine with me.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
Not so much nerves but I have had to battle the feeling of not feeling good enough/feeling inadequate/feeling like you shouldn’t be there.
Even though it is becoming more common to find ponies of all shapes and sizes at a British Dressage show when you ride a small, black and white, fluffy pony you do still stand out a mile in the sea of beautiful, VERY large, big moving Warmbloods. 99% our fellow competitors have been warm and welcoming (that is one of my favourite things about BD) but it’s the 1%, the cold and negative remarks that you remember. “Can you stop”
“My horse has never seen one like that before” “If you could warm up at the other end” “My horse hates coloured horses, stay out of the way”
“What is that on his feet” “Would you mind leaving” “Those feathers will spook my horse” “Can you not enter (the warmup)”
Those are just some of the remarks we have experienced from fellow competitors whilst simply trying to warm up for our test. Those comments combined with the fact that Remmi wasn’t always the easiest pony to warm up (nerves) left me with quite a fear of warming up. Often, I didn’t even bother.
How did do you deal with nerves?
Do your thing and don’t be discouraged by criticism (you probably already know what they are going to say anyway). Take chances, have fun and no matter what, never stop doing your thing.
Of course, it doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t just have a bad show, go to bed thinking I just need to ‘do my thing’, wake up the next day and everything is rosy. If only! Time is your friend here. Practice and you will eventually get better at it.
For the longest time I used to see being different as a bad thing. I would let all these negative thoughts fill my head. The reality is, it really doesn’t matter, our stories are all unique and there is room for us all in the world (or warm up). We do what we do because we love it and that right there is enough, nothing else matters.
Your Top Tip
I’m a shampoo fiend and I LOVE testing out new ones but my no.1, fail safe for getting whites whiter than white is Pro-Voke Touch of Silver purple shampoo for humans! We have a lot of white to keep clean with both Remmi and Mara (she has a fully white mane which is down to her knees) and this has never let me down. Like I say I love trying new ones but if I’m in a rush and need something reliable then this is my go-to.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Caroline Powell’s Lenamore
Who is your equestrian hero?
If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?