For 24-year-old dressage rider Lewis Carrier, 2021 will go down as his most successful year yet.
Lewis and his 13-year-old Spielberg x Welt Hit II gelding Diego V were the best-placed British combination at the under-25 European Championships in Hagen, Germany, in September, scoring 70.52% to finish 12th in the individual final, and helping the British team to fifth.
“The Europeans was definitely the highlight of the year for me,” says Lewis. “We came very close to some of the top nations and it was an amazing experience competing in Hagen alongside the senior Europeans. I’m so pleased with how Diego and I performed.”
The pair have been together for nine years, since Diego was found for Lewis at Dan Greenwood’s yard by his then trainer Diana Fisher. Although Lewis had at the time planned to go to Hartpury college after leaving school, he rerouted to the Eilbergs, where he spent four-and-half-years gaining experience. He then spent a year with Anna Ross before taking the brave decision to set up on his own aged 22.
“I think when you’re working for somebody else you don’t always get the same sort of opportunities to train your own horses and build your own career. I gained so much experience with the Eilbergs and with Anna, which is so important, but then I wanted to go it alone and it’s worked quite well. The perk is being able to compete when I like and focus on my own horses, but I do enjoy the business side of it, and I like to get out teaching in the afternoons – I love to see improvements in other people’s horses or riding. My main aim is to coach people and produce horses so I thought, ‘Why not get a head start?’.”
Although Lewis does have one more year left in under-25 ranks, he has started to dip his toe into the world of senior grand prix. Earlier this month, he finished a very impressive second to Olympic silver medallist Fiona Bigwood and Hawtins Delicato in the grand prix at Keysoe High Profile Show, and was also fourth in the special – his first time doing that test.
“Next year I feel confident to step up to seniors,” Lewis says, although his exact plans for 2022 will depend on whether Diego stays with him or not; the gelding is currently for sale.
“Diego is for sale, purely because I think it’s the right time for both him and me to make a transition. But there’s no rush to sell him at all, so we might still compete on the under-25 circuit next year and that’ll be great.
“I have another horse, Jaguar, who’ll be eight next year, coming up behind Diego,” adds Lewis. “He is competing at prix st georges and inter I now, and dabbling in the grand prix work at home. I’m not sure he’ll step up to under-25 if Diego goes next year, but he is really exciting for 2023 and beyond.”
Lewis Carrier: from acting to dressage
With a couple of five-year-olds in his yard as well, Lewis looks to be well set up take his dressage career to the next level. But it’s a career that could have been wildly different.
“I used to do a lot of acting throughout my school years – I had a couple of auditions for roles in movies and was offered the role of Oliver Twist in London’s West End as a child. When I left school, I had to decide if I was going to go to drama school in London, or do dressage. That was when we found Diego, so that led me down the equestrian route,” explains Lewis.
“I do think my acting background gives me confidence in the ring – when it is you and your horse competing in front of judges and crowds, it is like being on stage, but I don’t really get nervous competing.
“I also make my own freestyles and my musical knowledge helps me with that,” he adds. “I love using movie scores as they have a story behind them and you can feel the emotion. At the Europeans I used music from the Disney film Tron.”
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