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Remember the name: Phoebe Locke – ‘In eventing you can make an average horse good’

Over this festive season, we are shining a light on up-and-coming talent across the equestrian disciplines. These are riders you really need to keep an eye out for during the 2021 season...

Last season should have been a final one in young riders for Phoebe Locke, adding perhaps to her four under-21 medals since 2015. But despite Covid-19 interrupting that campaign, Phoebe still managed a successful few months eventing, including two trips abroad.

On the second of these forays, Phoebe achieved a breakthrough result, winning the CCI4*-S at Strzegom, Poland, on Pica D’Or, while she was also second in the CCI2*-L at the same event on Clotaire De Ferivel.

Both these horses were bought from French team rider Maxime Livio, with the now 18-year-old Pica D’Or bought first in 2018.

“We went to Maxime’s with an agent the first time,” explains Phoebe, 21. “We weren’t looking for a horse like Pic, but Maxime said I could try him and I fell in love with him. He’s quite small and I’m only small [5ft 3in]. Maxime is so helpful when I ring him and every event we go to in France he spends so much time helping me. Pic is everything he said he’d be, so we trusted him when he said he had another good horse.”

Pica D’Or was bought as a schoolmaster – he had numerous top placings and wins at three-star (now four-star) with Maxime – but Phoebe says he can be quite difficult and it took her a year to get to grips with him.

“He’s very talented, but quite different to ride in the ring – he’s the most intelligent horse and knows when he’s at home or at an event,” she says. “I have to practise at competitions, but at his age we don’t want to keep running him and running him.”

The nine-year-old Clotaire De Ferivel is a bigger horse, being around 17hh.

“He’s quite weak, so this year we’ve kept him at two-star and had some really good results,” says Phoebe. “He’s my first big horse, but he’s pretty adjustable and very fine so he doesn’t ride too big.”

Phoebe Locke: ‘I’m trying to attract more owners now’

Phoebe is trained by Lisa White for dressage and Corinne Bracken for jumping. She is based at her parents Tony and Jackie’s home in Somerset and has been riding full-time since she left school at 16.

“I’m just trying to break into attracting more owners now, with good horses to move up through the grades, so my parents can stop funding me through everything,” she says.

Phoebe switched from showjumping to eventing at 14, riding at her first pony European Championships on Mr Otto in her first full year eventing. A year later she was ninth individually and a team gold medallist at the pony Europeans on Quay.

“I really enjoyed showjumping and it gave me a really good foundation, but you just need so much more money in showjumping,” she says. “In eventing, you can make an average horse really good. We couldn’t go out and spend a lot of money. It cost us £6,000 to buy the pony I won team gold on and we turned her into a good horse.”

Phoebe then enjoyed success with Union Fortunus, winning a team bronze and silver at junior level and young rider team gold in 2020. The pair also won the junior CCI* (now CCI2*-L) at Ballindenisk in 2017 and the young rider CCI3*-L at Houghton in 2019.

“We sold Union Fortunus after the Europeans in 2019 as we had to reinvest in younger horses,” she says. “He was so consistent – that’s how he was selected for teams and he usually went first to get a good score on the board. He was only about 15.2hh and I don’t think he’d have stepped up to four-star. I didn’t want to break his heart when he was so consistent at a lower level.”

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As well as the two horses bought from Maxime Livio, Phoebe has Bellagio Declyange, another purchase from France who was eighth in the eight- and nine-year-olds at Burnham Market last season, and a third four-star horse in Cooley Challenger.

“He was my first ever horse coming off ponies and I’ve produced him from never eventing up to four-star so we’ve grown together,” she says. “He’s quite small again but he has an amazing heart and we’ve got a bond, he’ll do anything I ask.”

Phoebe plans to build her experience at four-star long in 2021 and may consider an autumn five-star with Cooley Challenger, but says she doesn’t want to tackle one until she is 100% ready. Her time in under-21 teams has set her up well for the future.

“Most of the time you’re competing against each other, so it’s nice to be in that team environment, but it’s also good to be put under pressure, riding in front of the selectors,” she says. “I’m quite good under pressure.”

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