Sarah comes from a completely non-horsey family and they have no idea where her passion for horses came from. Sarah knew when she started studying for her A levels that it wasn’t a route she wanted to take so much to her parents' horror, she left education to work in a little hunting yard. She learnt loads there and knew she had made the right decision to leave school, but after two years she also knew she wanted to become a qualified riding instructor so she went to Wellington Riding on an intensive 3 month training course for her BHSAI. It was really tough as Sarah felt pretty rubbish at the time, but she was brave and keen to learn, soaking everything up like a sponge. Sarah was so determined to pass, so she studied hard and watched everything she could, coaching, lungeing and riding. Sarah remembers being in awe of the instructors at Wellington and knew that was what she wanted to achieve. So the first part of her career was all about gaining her BHS qualifications, passing her BHSI in 2000.
After gaining her BHSAI, Sarah worked for top event rider Richard Meade as a groom, then she went to Cannington College in Bridgwater as yard manager. In the early 90s she moved to Scotland to study at Oatridge College and gained her HND in horse business management, alongside studying for her BHSII which she passed in 1994. This qualification got Sarah a job at the prestigious Gleneagles Equestrian Centre, where she worked her way up to senior coach and yard manager. Sarah learnt so much whilst she was there, with access to the most amazing daily coaching from visiting trainers such as Ernest Dillon, Captain Mark Phillips, William Micklem and Carl Hester (who remains Sarah's coach to this day). Alongside teaching hotel guests and regular clients, Sarah was in charge of all the student training, such as intensive training and working pupils, and she ran all the BHS exams. She was also given a few horses to produce for the hotel. Gleneagles regularly held large BSJA shows at the centre and a BE event, which allowed Sarah to show jump and event the horses to a decent level. They sold well and a few were even sold to America. Sarah had a real passion for young horses and soon developed a good reputation for backing young horses, who were often tricky as many of them had had a bad start. Along with one of her trusted colleagues, Julia Gouley, and Erik Mckechnie on the ground, these horses were backed and given a good grounding for their future education.
Sadly in 1999 Sarah's Dad died, so she moved back down south to be closer to her family. Sarah got a job at the London Equestrian Centre as chief instructor. This was a pretty unhappy time for Sarah for lots of reasons, but she took her own horse Kasirama with her, who was show jumping successfully. Whilst Sarah was at LEC, she gained her BHSI certificate, which was a real positive. After a year at LEC, Sarah set off to America for an adventure, where she was offered a job as an event rider in Texas. It was great fun and it gave Sarah the opportunity to see how they produce horses in a different country, with a very different climate. Sarah got to ride some amazing horses and competed in various States. She thoroughly enjoyed this whole adventure, gaining plenty of competition experience. Unfortunately it all came to an end when immigration said she had to leave, so Sarah returned to the UK. When Sarah came home, she received a phone call from the manager of Gleneagles, the lovely Diana Zajda. She offered Sarah her old job back at Gleneagles in 2001 and this is where Sarah met her husband John.
In 2003, she was offered the chief instructor position at Hartpury College. This was an amazing opportunity to manage such a large number of horses, students and staff. Sarah met some wonderful people and learnt many new skills, but much of it involved paper work and being such a hands-on person, she realised it wasn’t the environment for her and that what she really wanted was a yard of her own. So in 2005 Sarah took the plunge and although it was a scary prospect, it turned out to be the best thing she has ever done. Sarah was still eventing and show jumping when she left Hartpury, but her heart wasn’t really in it. She realised she wasn’t brave enough or fast enough to be competitive in this discipline. She had her children in 2006 and 2007 so this was a quiet time competitively, but it allowed Sarah a chance to grow the business and nurture her babies. At that time she was having some training with Tessa Thorne and got a real bug for dressage, which turned out to be a discipline Sarah was highly competitive at! She was backing and producing young horses and selling them alongside the coaching and livery side of the business. Sarah started coaching the Beaufort Hunt Pony Club in 2005 and helped them achieve huge success, getting teams to the Pony Club Championships every year in most disciplines, where the teams were nearly always well placed, going on to win the Intermediate Eventing Champs.
When Sarah bought Polly in 2009, it was with Grand Prix in mind. Sarah had always wanted to produce a horse to Grand Prix and Carl always believed in her and said she would get there. Along with Carl's help and many others, such as Sue McMahon and Isobel Wessels, Sarah fulfilled her Grand Prix dreams in early 2020, stating that it's one of the greatest achievements of her career. This was a thrilling journey which, as it is for every rider, was full of highs and lows. Polly got there against all the odds, as she did her hind suspensory when she was 8 and had 3 years off. The time off allowed Polly's tendon to heal and during this period, she had two foals. Having trained many horses up through the levels now, it has given Sarah so much experience and insights into what works. It has developed her coaching massively, giving her lots of tools, ideas and exercises to use when you hit a problem. Sarah is now looking forward to the future to see how Polly’s strength and understanding improves at Grand Prix. She is also fortunate to have a lovely string of up and coming young horses too, thanks to some wonderful owners who have put their beloved horses in her trust. Sarah is also a BD level 3 coach.