Rio para dressage star Sophie Wells reveals her secret weapon

  • H&H's Madeleine Hill finds out a bit more about British Paralympic squad member Sophie Wells — from what her secret weapon is to her top tip for warming up

    What is your secret weapon?

    My special looped reins — if I didn’t have them I might as well take up Western riding! I used to ride at my local riding school, and before I discovered the magic of looped reins, I used to ride a cheeky pony that would jump and then just put her head down… I would lose my reins and fall off – this used to happen all the time!

    What is your top tip for warming up?

    At the big shows, where the warm up arena can be very busy — look where you are going. You don’t look at the steering wheel when you are driving! If you “plan your route” you won’t be stopping and turning at the last minute all the time trying to avoid everyone else in the warm up arena.

    What is your top tip for saving time?

    Be organised: on my yard all my horses each have their own designated colour so everything is colour coded — that way there are no mix ups. Valerius has red, Pinnochio blue, Fatal Attraction purple and Touchdown has pink.

    What is your money-saving secret?

    Don’t have horses!

    What do you like to watch on TV?

    I normally fall asleep. I even fell asleep watching The Lion King at the cinema with an old boyfriend — it had been a long day…

    What is your earliest equestrian memory?

    Sitting on a pony at a friend’s birthday party aged about three, and knowing then that this was what I wanted.

    What mistakes can you now laugh at?

    I once went to squad training and forgot to take any haylage — I couldn’t risk giving my horses random haylage, so I paid a taxi driver to pick some up from the yard in Nottinghamshire and bring it all the way to Stow-on-the-Wold.

    What would you say to your 15-year-old self?

    Enjoy the journey — you are always striving to be better and it’s easy to move on to the next thing and not appreciate small milestones.

    Who was your first pony?

    Crystal. She taught me a lot, namely how to sit tight and bounce off cross-country fences — not very well! Maybe I owe it to her that I started specialising in dressage so early on.

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    What’s the most memorable moment of your career so far?

    It has got to be London 2012. Trotting into that arena in Greenwich on my perfect dancing partner was the best feeling in the world — particularly when the crowd went wild before we had even done anything! I could probably have fallen off and they would still have cheered.

    Don’t miss our Paralympic preview in the 8 September issue of Horse & Hound magazine, out now

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