Becoming A Professional Rider
So many of us dream of doing it — Harry Hall Ambassador Sara-Jane Lanning has actually done it. So what skills and business strands do you need to make a living out of horses? Hello everyone! I’m Sara, a dressage rider, trainer and British Dressage(BD) judge from Hampshire. I started riding when I was 11 and have been hooked ever since. Over the last 30 years (yes, I’m old!) I have been involved with various equestrian disciplines.
After a childhood abroad in the cities of Dusseldorf and Paris, I learnt to ride in a Kent riding school. With my first pony, a 12.2hh cream gelding called Cream Puff, I started off showing, then through my then local Pony Club, the Tickham Hunt in Kent, I competed in all Pony Club teams in dressage, show Jumping and eventing. My main love back then was eventing — I didn’t really like the dressage but loved the cross country.
How I switched disciplines
I progressed with various horses up to Open Intermediate level eventing, but when the ground was hard one summer and my youngster at the time decided he didn’t want to jump on hard ground, we started proper dressage training. He learnt really quickly which made me discover my love for dressage, and with the help of good trainers we rapidly progressed to Prix St Georges level where I got to wear top hat and tails for the first time.
Learning on the job
I had various equestrian jobs during this time, a wonderful time in a showing yard, getting to compete hunters side saddle, working cobs, schooling all sorts from ponies to arabs, it never felt like a job! Then a busy event and dealing yard along with the brilliant opportunity of lessons on a dressage schoolmaster giving me the feel for those movements I went on to teach my own horse. Eventing then took a back seat and I set up on my own.
Years followed producing horses for sale, re-schooling lots of problem horses and learning from many different horses. As soon as a horse was going well and winning it inevitably sold!
Now finally I get to keep my horses and have two bay geldings, 16-year-old Mi Amigo (stable name Zoa) a 17.2hh Danish Warmblood at Prix St Georges level, and 18 year old Try Me Once (Theo) a 17.1hh Dutch Warmblood now competing at Grand Prix.
Paying the bills
I make my living teaching: I am a UKCC 3 level coach, and work very long hours coaching up to 12 lessons a day. I am lucky to keep my horses at home but it’s still hard work as I have to fit in riding them round these long hours. The winter has been tough, it’s been so wet and long and we have clay soil which has been waterlogged and this year have managed no turn out from November to mid April!
I can’t remember ever having to keep them in so long, I think last year there were only two weeks when they could not go out. Theo the old boy though is a bit precious! Along with my 27 year old livery, a former international grand prix horse, he only seems to like going out when it is not too cold, too wet, too hot, too many flies etc etc, the list goes on! They let me know in no uncertain terms that they want to come in! So it’s wonderful finally to see them out enjoying the sunshine, even rugless, rolling out the last little bits of winter coats on their unclipped saddle patches! Summer coats are starting to shine too.
I love producing horses up through the levels and now with my two at Advanced, I am actually missing riding at Novice level so must shortly start the search for another horse.
Beaten by Miss Dujardin!
I recently had a wonderful week at the British Dressage Winter Championships where I both judged and rode. Mi Amigo contested four classes and had four top 10 placings including 5th in the Gala Night Prix St Georges, 4th in the Advanced Medium Gold behind Charlotte Dujardin with her three horses taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and finally 3rd in the Advanced Medium freestyle. I proudly used my Harry Hall One Club saddlecloth for all performances.
Goals for this year are to keep having fun and enjoying my horses, to continue competing and progressing, which we have done a lot since starting training with Olympic rider Spencer Wilton last October.
What I’m wearing
“I decided to treat Theo to one of the innovative Protechmasta Infrared Rugs. Being an older advanced horse, I want to try to keep him at the top of his game for as long as I can. The first show he wore it at was the Grand Prix at Hickstead, which he won! Now Merlin the spaniel has one too!”
Good luck everyone in 2018!