Sarah Dowley will set out on her first five-star cross-country course at Chedington Bicton Horse Trials today – and unusually for someone competing at this level, Sarah is an amateur event rider, with a job outside horses.
The 27-year-old Irish rider shares a yard with her sister, professional dressage rider Rachel Dowley, and works as a radiation therapist at the UPMC Cancer Centre in Co Waterford.
“My colleagues know I’m off work this week, but I’m not quite sure they know what I’m doing,” said Sarah after her dressage test yesterday. “But my phone’s been going mad all day with messages, which is nice. There’s a lot of people behind me.”
Sarah’s ride, the 17-year-old Rubix Kube, was bought as a youngster as a hack and low level horse for the rider’s father, Ivan, but ended up being Sarah’s first horse.
“I kind of liked him and stole him, went from there and just kept going,” said Sarah. “He wouldn’t win many rosettes, but he has a lot of completions, so we’ll try for that here.”
Sarah says Rubix Kube “does it his own way” across country,
“He’s clever, he’s brave, he’s fairly honest and he will try and do it for you, so I think you have to compromise a little bit with him doing it the way he wants to do it. I just need not to get in the way too much and let him do his job,” said Sarah, who says the son of VDL Ricochet is “about 18hh”.
Talking about tackling her first five-star, Sarah said: “I think it’s just something to enjoy. I’m here on my holidays and it’s a lovely place. And I have a lovely horse so I’m just going to try and enjoy it, and hope we’re all safe and sound on Monday morning at home again.”
Sarah Dowley says the Bicton track will pose a particular challenge as she hasn’t competed out of Ireland for the past two years.
“We haven’t been able to travel and see different courses. He has been doing his four-stars at home, but they are all courses he’s jumped a lot before, so I think it’s going to be a big step – probably even more than if I’d been able to come over and do something here in the spring. I think I just have to be respectful of every fence out there.”
Sarah scored 34 for her dressage, which leaves her equal 21st.
“He’s not a horse that really likes working at home, or putting a huge amount of effort when there’s no one to watch and clap for him, so I’ve actually never been able to ride through the test on him or really practise it that much. I think it was okay – it could have been worse, could have been better,” she said.
The pair start their cross-country at 3.04pm this afternoon.
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