International dressage champion and trainer Amy Stovold spends a day with Coutts Woman and explains why London 2012 is the place to be.
Amy Stovold, 32, is hoping to compete in the dressage event at the London 2012 Olympics. She lives in Staplefield, West Sussex, with her boyfriend, an equine vet.
I started riding at the age of three, and I guess my love for horses and competing grew from there. From a young age, I bought myself a pony and competed quite successfully.
My friend David Jones, who I am now based with, gave me some lessons on a horse that could do all the fancy tricks, and my passion for dressage took off. Making horses dance is the best way to explain what dressage is. It’s a bit like gymnastics for horses.
In addition to being a dressage rider, I also have my own training yard full of competition horses. At the moment, we have 13 horses to train and prepare for competing.
My day normally begins at around 7.30am when my boyfriend brings me a cup of coffee. Since it’s been so cold, I usually wear long johns, jodhpurs, ski trousers, a v-neck long sleeved t-shirt, a jumper and a big coat.
I head to my yard which is about 10 minutes away, and aim to get riding by 9.30am. And then literally I ride one horse after another until about 1pm when I stop for lunch of a soup and bread roll.
Then it’s back to riding horses, before I start teaching at 2pm. Usually, I will ride between 8 – 12 horses per day. I also employ three members of staff who help out at the yard.
Keeping horses is expensive. When I first started I had to beg, borrow and steal to really improve myself on horses which weren’t necessarily competition ready. I had to train them from scratch and be a groom, which means mucking out the horses and getting them ready for someone else to ride them.
It can be a tough job, particularly in the winter when it’s cold. You have to work long hours and the pay is not great, but now I have my own business, I really appreciate what grooms want out of the job.
The minimum cost for one horse is probably around £8k. That literally is fees, bedding, shoeing (horses have to be shod every six weeks) and fed with high quality feed. With the recession, everything has gone up in price.
But for me it’s worth training the horses and competing. I have been doing this all of my life and I absolutely love it. The winters can be tough but we have an indoor arena which means we don’t have to battle with the elements so much.
For me being a dressage rider is all about achieving goals and improving all the time. Competing against other dedicated people is a real inspiration. That’s partly the reason why I am looking forward to London 2012.
It would mean everything to compete for the country, and an amazing achievement to receive a medal. I have always dreamed of that moment and so the pressure is on to ensure I can be there.
But first, I’m aiming for the European Championships. Dressage works on percentage basis, so I need to get consistent scores above 69 per cent. The judges are looking out for different things and every move is marked out of 10.
Once I get through the high profile shows this year, I hopefully will stand a chance to get to the next stage – the Olympics. I’ve been up to Greenwich to see the equestrian centre. It’s truly amazing. For the first time in so many years, the equestrian sports are part of the heart of the Olympic, especially since the Olympic village is so close.
But there’s still lots I need to do and gaining sponsorship is one of the main things. For example to attend the international championships I need to be able to borrow a lorry to transport the horse.
A number of companies are currently helping me on this journey. Any further sponsorship could really help me get that step closer to the Olympics.
Only that way will I be able to gain the experience and scores to be able to stand a chance to be part of the Great Britain 2012 team.
For more information or to sponsor Amy, call 07740 708026 or email her.
As told to Rupa Sudra