Professional wears many hats and faces myriad of challenges

  • Posted: Sunday, December 2, 2012 12:36 a.m.

Imagine having multiple rides in the same division, and being faced with the challenge of making time on the cross country course with each one of those horses.

But, it’s that same daunting task eventer Sarah Davis willingly embraces. The professional athlete says there are no short cuts, you have to be ready, and making time is critical to a rider/horse combination’s success.

“You have to have that feeling down of how fast you’re going,” said Davis. “When you ride eight different horses, especially when all of them have to go that fast, it’s hard. The horses all feel different, they all jump different, they all go different, and they’re all going to make time different. I’m starting to get into an area that I haven’t been (in) for a while.”

And now that Davis finds herself with a great deal of depth with the horses she’s competing, it becomes an even greater challenge. The rider is having to become more precise, when measuring the distances on the cross country course, so she’ll know exactly what her pace will be for each horse.

Davis made this analogy as she compared riding a horse during the cross country phase of a horse trials to driving a car.

“With some horses, you put your foot on the gas and drive as fast as you can, you take your foot off the gas and they slow down,” said Davis. “Then you have horses that are the exact opposite, and they are working the brake the whole time. The second you take your foot off the brake they’re speeding off. There’s no taking your foot off the brake. They go, and then when you add the jumps, they’re still changing the rhythm. They see a jump, and they’re trying to go that much faster.”

The challenge of trying to figure out pace, making the necessary adjustments for each horse, and trying to determiine the best way to make time, provides Davis with great insight into the horses she’ll be riding at a horse trials. If a rider makes time on the cross country course, they’re probably going to be in the top four, if they don’t, they’re not going to be competitive, said Davis.

It appears more than likely, Davis will have four horses going preliminary this winter.

The athlete is based at Lara Anderson’s and Daniel Brown’s Full Gallop Farm, and is a multifarious individual, whose ability to balance numerous tasks, do them well and efficiently, and she would surely be the envy of any tight rope walker as Davis manages to maintain her concentration over what at times can be extremely tenuous. The horseman’s job is labor intensive, and horses are not self-existing items, so the athlete’s commitment goes far beyond what most people can imagine. However, she doesn’t mind putting forth the effort because it’s something that she’s passionate about.

Davis cleans stalls, cleans tack, loads the horses on the trailer, unloads the horses from the trailer, organizes, feeds the horses, blankets the horses, body clips the horses, braids, trains, teaches, competes, sells the horses, markets the horses, brings horses in for training, talks to people, goes through thousands of photographs, uploads the photos to 15 different horse websites, and has to have a description about each horse. She also has to make herself available to those parties interested in purchasing a horse.

But, there will be help on the way this winter, Davis will have six working students, but that also entails a lot of work. The students will be riding the horses Davis will be competing this winter in horse trials throughout the area. However, with that comes a whole set of new circumstances.

“I have to go out there, and show them exactly the way I want to have each horse ridden, make sure they’re doing it the way I want, watch them, coach them and find the time to rotate them all,” said Davis.

The eventer also jumps the horses every week, and she has to make sure they all do their flat work.

The working students have scheduled days off, and Davis is charged with the responsibility of making a schedule of what days, how many hours each student will be working, and what everyone will be doing. The working students are not paid, they get to stay at the farm and if they have a horse, it stays for free. They also get free training from Davis.

“They have to take enough time off of my plate that I can afford to do everything that has to be done, and still teach everyone of those girls, and all of my extra students,” said Davis.

However, Davis will have an opportunity to work with Olympian Stephen Bradley this winter, who will be based at Full Gallop, and will continue to train with Simon Eades.

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