As part of our #TEAMHUFF launch I spent 5 mins with Sam to find out more about his life, his lifestyle and his passions:
Tell us about the horses that got you where you are today?
We have to start with the big man, Teldon. Mr. T to his friends! We have gone from Pony Club to 3* together and he just steps up his game every time. I still remember when I rode him the first time, his flatwork and jumping weren’t much to write home about, but when I took him cross-country I knew we had something special. We instinctively clicked and knew what each other were thinking. If I won the lottery I’d clone him! I honestly believe he would have been an Olympic horse if he didn’t have me learning the ropes on his back.
My first pony was a little grey rocket called Flipper. Most of my friends learned to ride on him and was a legend in the Pony Club. He was only 13.2hh and I was nearly too tall for him when I started, so we only had a season together, but he gave me the bug for competing, and winning! My instructor at the time told me if I could ride him I could ride any horse because he knew all the tricks, nowadays I understand what she meant!
How do you relax at the end of the day?
Relax?! Most evenings are for catching up on admin work, but when your passion is your day job you can’t complain if you have to do the boring stuff at night. My wife, Julia, and I love to play cards, a Brazilian game similar to rummy, and we have a few series on Netflix that we are really into. Our daughter, Sophia, was born in August and the best way to relax at the end of the day is to get a big smile from her. It really puts everything in perspective and makes a stressful day melt away.
What do you do to keep fit?
Riding and working around the yard keeps me fairly fit, especially during the season when it’s difficult to find the time for extra sessions. I do have some Pilates and core strength exercises that I use to make sure I stay balanced and supple. This year I want to join the gym in the off-season to get some more targeted help.
What’s your biggest luxury in life?
My Indoor arena. I used to ride in all sorts of horrific weather, usually on the top of a hill where you’d be blown away on a bad day (great for teaching a young horse lateral movements!), so I’ve definitely gone soft since moving here. Julia, being Brazilian, insisted we needed an indoor when we started our business and I thought she was being a bit precious, but every time it’s thundering down I’m secretly thankful she got her way!
When the going gets tough, what keeps you motivated?
It’s the desire to improve. Every day. Every ride. To help each horse perform to their individual best. Progress is never totally linear, but I try to make small improvements all the time to keep things as incremental as possible, otherwise you risk a big fall after a big gain. They say most sports people are motivated by a desire to win or a fear of failure, but I’ve struggled to reconcile that with eventing. I recently heard someone describe eventing as a losing sport. In a football match 50% of players will win in any match, whereas in eventing only one person out of a class of 50, 60, 70+ people can win, and that is tough to get your head around sometimes. For me, it comes back to my horses and my goals for them.
What do you think is the biggest challenge you face as a professional rider?
The biggest challenge is often trying to focus on being a professional rider! It is no secret that there is not much prize money in eventing, certainly not to live off, and only a small percentage of people can ever win it. To be a professional rider you have to wear so many hats, keep so many balls in the air, it is a constant balancing act. I once started counting up all the areas I needed a knowledge of to do my job properly and I lost count: riding, coaching, physiotherapy, veterinary science, nutrition, bio-mechanics, first aid, etc. That’s just for the horses! To run a business you also need to be on top of your marketing, accounting, health and safety, human resources, sales... it’s a miracle we get any time to sleep! But when you are on a cross country course it is just you and your horse and 10 minutes of bliss, and I’ll take whatever challenges come my way to get there.