Triple Rio gold medallist Sophie Christiansen has put herself out of contention for this year’s European Championships (22-27 August) in Gothenburg, Sweden, while she looks for a new horse and sponsor.
The 29-year-old para-dressage rider took a hiatus after the 2016 games to re-evaluate her competitive career, saying she had been “extremely unhappy” in the run-up to Rio and felt she “had little control over the sporting half of my life”.
Sophie said she has now decided to commit to another four years of the sport but wanted to make some changes to put the “fun back”.
“I’ve been competing since I was 16 and I needed a break, which us why I waited a bit after Rio to see how I felt. Keeping horses is expensive and I considered retiring and working full-time in the city instead,” said Sophie, who currently works part-time for investment bank Goldman Sachs.
“I don’t think any of us want to go through a year like we had last year — we had a great outcome but I felt like I was treading water all the way through.”
Sophie is planning to move in with her boyfriend and the relocation means she has had to make several changes.
“I will have to move yards as it’s too far to commute to the current one, which means I have had to let the horse I was riding last year [Athene] go,” she explained. “Being a rider without a horse makes me feel very vulnerable but the squad has kindly given me this year to sort myself out again.”
While Sophie has found a new yard and trainers, she is still searching for a new horse.
Her ideal future championship partner needs to be bomb-proof, have an excellent walk, preferably be aged 8-12 years and around 16.2hh.
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“I know it will be quite hard to find the right one but I’m putting the feelers out,” said Sophie. “I hope to be up and running by next year as if I don’t compete at the World Equestrian Games I will lose my funding, which plays a part in what I can afford to do. Ideally I’d like to find a horse before October.”
“There are a lot of changes but it is really exciting at the moment,” she added, “Although I’ll feel better once I’ve found a horse for my own sanity!”
Sophie — who competes in the grade I category — took part in her first Paralympics in 2004 and has since tallied eight Olympic golds. She became Britain’s first triple gold Paralympic medalists in London in 2012 and was appointed CBE in this year’s honours list.