5 minutes with: Paralympian Sophie Wells on psychology and being put off jumping *H&H Plus*

The Paralympic gold medallist on her fascination with psychology and the pony that put her off jumping

  • Sophie Wells is a grade V para dressage rider who also competes up to grand prix in able-bodied dressage. She is a triple Paralympic gold medallist, who has also won multiple golds at World and European Championships. She is aiming for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021 with her top horse C Fatal Attraction.

    What’s the best book you have read?
    A book about psychology called Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown. I found it fascinating and it’s really helped me within my coaching, and life generally – I go back to it quite often.

    Favourite tunes for a road trip?
    Anything we can turn up loud and sing along to without hearing ourselves.

    Who was your first pony?
    A little 12hh liver chestnut mare called Crystal – she actually put me off mares for about 20 years! It was with her that I discovered that jumping wasn’t for me; I didn’t have adapted reins back then, and had a pretty awful saddle, but every time I went over a jump she’d buck or put her head down and I’d fall off. Dressage certainly seemed more appealing.

    If you weren’t a rider, what would you do?
    Something related to sport science, perhaps in biomechanics or sport psychology. I spent 18 months at the University of Lincoln studying sport science, but the London Paralympics were on the horizon at that time, and I never ended up going back to it.

    Which famous people would you invite to dinner?
    It would probably have to be Carl Hester and Isabell Werth, as what they have done for the sport is amazing and I massively admire them both – but I probably wouldn’t be able to function properly! I would also choose my grandparents on Dad’s side, who died when I was young. Given the present travel situation, I’d also have my brother, who lives in Australia and feels further away than ever right now.

    What’s your most annoying habit?
    That I often don’t reply to messages. I tend to reply in my head, while I’m doing something else, then I forget to actually do it. I try to leave messages unopened until the end of the day to remind me, but that doesn’t always work.

    How many other animals do you have?
    At the moment I have Tia, a chihuahua who I got for my 21st birthday. I recently turned 30 and have been having a bit of a mini mid-life crisis, and I’ve just got a chihuahua puppy, Bailey.

    Your favourite tipple…
    Gin – I don’t have a particular favourite as I don’t drink often enough (maybe except for during lockdown!) to have experienced the range. I’m still discovering.

    Do you speak any other languages?
    I did GCSE French, but I definitely would not say that I can speak it. I can ask where the library is, but that’s about it.

    If you could ride any horse in the world, who would it be?
    It would be easy to just say Valegro, but actually I was watching Charlotte Dujardin ride Pumpkin recently, and he looks incredible, so I’d probably go for him.

    What do you love to cook?
    When I moved into my house I was forced to cook for myself more, and ended up being convinced to sign up to Hello Fresh. I receive three meals a week and although I don’t have a particular favourite dish, it really encourages me to expand on what I cook and eat.

    Give us the lowdown on your current top horse
    My Paralympic team horse C Fatal Attraction, known as Jorge, can be very spooky and dramatic, but once you motivate him to work he will just keep going for you. He’s very flamboyant and expressive in his movement, but when you first get on him, especially if he’s had some time off, he feels more like a Pony Club pony. I also swear he’s part-bred cob – he grows feathers and a beard. He loves the camera and is very photogenic – if he sees a camera pointed his way he will look straight at it. He also loves food, sleeping and dancing.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 16 July 2020