1. You won the derby in 2009 & 2011. Please tell us about both wins. What went so right? What do you most remember? How did you prepare both yourself and A New Era?
The win in 2009 was one of the highlights of my career and still is. Winning at age 19 on a horse that had never jumped higher than 1m45 before the competition, and this being my first 1m50 competition as well, is the stuff that dreams are made of. We had taken our time in building a solid foundation as a team so Derby was not as big a step as we thought it would be. I think there’s a huge lesson to be learnt here – when producing a horse or even buying one that’s already jumping top level, build that confident team properly. Unfortunately this takes patience 🙂 My win in 2011 was different. It was special because my mom had passed away a few months earlier and I was really just riding to make her proud. To have won it once was great but to have won it twice allowed me to know it wasn’t a fluke 😉
2. Tell us about A New Era – age, breeding, your relationship etc.
A New Era and I have been together for 12 years now and we still successfully compete in the Open level. He is a Namibian bred warmblood which makes him rather tricky. We have formed an unbelievable bond now through many ups and downs and our bond has even taken us to places like Mauritius, UK, Belgium, France and Germany to name just a few.
3. What do you love about Derby? What do you dislike? What are your biggest challenges at Derby?
Derby is the most prestigious event to win in South Africa. There is such a huge crowd which I absolutely love. The track is always the same. It takes a certain type of horse to do well at the Derby and A New Era is one of those. The biggest challenge is being fit enough and strong enough: both horse and rider. I am extremely fit but because my horse is so strong it can be a bit tough for my arms 😉
4. Who are some of your favourites to take the title this year?
I would love Graham Winn to win this year. But also don’t mind who wins! I will be happy for anyone, we all have our turns 🙂
5. Do you have any other horses that you’ll be competing on this year?
At this stage I do have one but only in the 1m20 classes, Callaho Quartz’s Last. I wouldn’t say no to someone who had a Derby horse and needed a rider 🙂
6. Will you be joining the afterparty?
100% yes. My fiancé is the organiser of the event so I am certain it will be something you can’t afford to miss!
7. How do you physically and mentally prepare for derby?
Physically I do my normal exercise which changes according to the injuries I have. At the moment its gym twice a week, a possible pool swim or 2 and 3 group cycles in the early mornings. My cycles are normally about 1 hour 30 per cycle at very high intensity. Mentally: well just try to control the mind and have fun – that’s really what we all do it for!
8. How do you prepare your horse? Do you do lots of Derby fence training or mostly fitness or what? Does he get some rest pre show etc? Give us insight on your training with him in order to make sure he peaks?
I judge my horse each year differently. It’s hard to have a set plan that works every year. My horse is now a lot older and struggles with too much fitness training. So I start earlier and give him more rest days to recover. Fitness is key but also over training is a real thing so I basically train any horse the way I would train myself and resting is as important as fitness. A New Era is so used to Derby fences he doesn’t need much training. On any other horse I would suggest to make sure they are comfortable with all the fences and take them to one or two places to get them used to the jumps. There is no point having a silly mistake after all the hard fitness work. A New Era’s Derby days are coming to an end but we still love jumping around the course and I dread the day he says enough is enough. Hopefully I can find another horse to take his place and enjoy it together with them as much as he and I do now!