Sam has been showing ponies since she was nine, turning professional in 2004. She has produced many national champions and had multiple wins at Horse of the Year Show and the Royal International, and won the mountain and moorland final at Olympia. She trains a mix of her own and clients’ ponies.
Growing up, I idolised all the greats: Mary King, Carol Gilbert-Scott, Anky van Grunsven, Richard Dunwoody, Tim Stockdale and, of course, Carl Hester. My house is full of books they’ve written. When I was younger I was very ambitious and driven, and while they are great qualities to have, with horses you have to put things into perspective. Success doesn’t always come in the form of a ribbon. Sometimes the rewards are teaching a youngster to pick up the correct canter lead or starting a pony off to jump.
I’m still very driven in all I do. The phrase “quitters never win yet winners never quit” rings true with me. However, while I believe it’s good to be stubborn about your goals I do think you have to be flexible with your methods.
One thing I love to do is make lists. I write up timetables for everywhere I go. I’m more able to focus once all the jobs have been written down and there’s a list to follow. It helps me to shut out all other thoughts before I go into the ring. You have to be totally focused and listen to the horse you’re riding. And smile; what’s in the brain goes down the rein.When I stay away from home I always take turnout rugs with me. It’s lovely to have smart embroidered rugs, but years ago at HOYS I had a stable with a hole in the roof and it rained all night. My poor pony was so wet and miserable the next morning and I’m sure he didn’t perform to his best because of it.
There are some ponies you wish you had later in life, like Rotherwood Wild Snowdrop who was a big, beautiful Welsh section B mare. She was champion at Northleach in 2001 and won five National Pony Society silver medals in one season. I was only 14 when I had her, and while we were successful I did struggle to contain her on occasions. She was an athletic, powerful and headstrong mare.
One day in frustration I told my mum I didn’t really enjoy riding her and said that perhaps she wasn’t for me. The next day I came home from school and she’d been sold with her ride at Olympia. That taught me never, ever to be ungrateful and unappreciative. With the experience I’ve gained I’d love to see if I could have got a better connection with her. She was a gorgeous mare who went on well after I had her and she qualified for Olympia with her new owners.
My parents always gave me good advice. Mum always told me to be humble and hungry, and always be the hardest worker in the room. Dad said to me: “You’re only successful if you’ve represented your country or got a British flag in sport”. I haven’t achieved that but it makes me really determined to be the best I could be in the sport I love.
Ref Horse & Hound; 16 Janaury 2020