Stephanie DeWitt chats with Amy Stovold
By Stephanie DeWitt Photography Julian Portch #AmyStovold
Why did you specifically become a dressage rider?
I've always enjoyed dressage.
I went to a riding school until I was sixteen. There we did a lot of riding without stirrups. I really enjoyed schooling and did some showing, so dressage was a natural progression from there. Apart from that, I never had a pony that was good at jumping!
When I worked as a groom, my boss was trained by Kyra Kyrklund and I learned a lot by just watching. In fact, watching top dressage riders was a massive part of my life - Kenneth Dyrby was a huge influence. Then I moved to Fiona Bigwood's yard before setting up my own yard. At the moment I am personally trained by Richard White.
And if I hadn't become a dressage rider I would probably have been a dancer. I took classes in ballet, tap, modern and jazz dancing when I was younger. Now I dance with horses!
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Riding MacBrian at Olympia in 2010! The atmosphere there was massive! I remember going to Olympia at Christmas as a child, never dreaming that one day I would actually ride there.
We also took part in the test event for the London Olympics at Greenwich in 2012. He was the most amazing horse, still competing at national level at the age of 22.
Your best horse?
Macbrian, a Swedish warmblood gelding, as mentioned above, was the most courageous, loyal and talented horse of my career to date. I also rode Debonnet, an Oldenberg gelding, at Grand Prix level. He was an incredible horse but sadly had a lot of soundness issues, probably by doing too much, too soon when he was young. He retired from dressage in 2013 and is now just enjoying life.
Olympia, naturally! But also Hickstead which is local and has a very good surface. Abroad it has to be Pompadour in France. It's an absolutely stunning setting with the castle and old stables.
Which horse(s) do you currently have in work?
Bobo L is a 14 year-old but is two years behind in his training because of my daughter Florence's birth. I really enjoy riding him and we've nearly reached Grand Prix level. Then there's 5 year-old Kenjiro, a Dutch Warmblood with Governer/Totilas breeding. He's an exciting prospect with a really amazing attitude, temperament and balance.
Have you had any disappointments or regrets along the way, anything you would have done differently?
I had an amazing horse called Lenski with whom I won the Medium Southern Regional Championships at Oldencraig in 2004. He was actually bred to be a showjumper and competed in 5 and 6 year-old classes. I got him as a stallion and left him entire. But should I have had him cut? Would he have been better as a gelding? You have to have the right facilities in your yard to accommodate stallions. They can't go out in the field like other horses. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
How has motherhood impinged upon your riding and competing?
It's been pretty tough, actually. I've had to make major adjustments and I've found it difficult leaving Florence to go to work. Having a baby was a bit of a culture shock, especially at the age of 39! Even suffering from a lack of sleep, I don't regret it, though.
Florence hasn't got her own pony yet. I want her to learn to ride alongside other children, but she's only three now. She helps me around the yard and sits on my horses.
Because of Covid 19 the nursery is shut and I've had to change my day around. I usually teach for a couple of hours in the afternoon. However, as I didn't take any maternity leave after Florence was born, I'm treating this as my maternity leave and thoroughly enjoying it. However, I do know the difference financially!
How has lockdown affected you?
I'm using it to my advantage! I've now got time to catch up on things I keep meaning to do. One thing I have planned is to do some short video clips of me working at home with my horses, just simple day-to-day training, things like showing how to do lateral movements. I want to post them on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Perhaps people could get in touch and let me know the sort of things they would like to see.
What piece of advice would you give to our readers?
Relish any challenge and never give up! Sometimes it's a case of being in the right place at the right time. Really believe in yourself, work hard and train hard. Treat your horses with kindness and don't forget to be kind to yourself!
To get away from the current situation, where in the world would you like to be?
Dubai! It's an amazing place!
And, if I could take my horses, I'd like to go to America, Florida in particular. They have good trainers and show circuits there.
Photo by Julian Portch
Photo by Julian Portch