About Sarah

My parents gave up asking me what I wanted for my birthday or Christmas as it was always the same answer, “a pony!” Eventually, my dream came true when I was 11 years old and my father thought it would only last for 6 months! The rest is history.

I was fortunate to keep my pony at a local livery/riding school with various BHS and visiting army instructors during the summer school holidays who kept me heading in the right direction. They instilled high standards and attention to detail. I spent every spare moment learning everything I could with regards to all things equestrian. I became a member of the livery’s small riding club and learned how to compete in various disciplines, progressing onto the Pony Club (South Trent), taking various examinations and showing at county shows within the East Midlands area.

I became interested in teaching at the livery yard where I kept my pony and would always offer to lead ponies during lessons so I could listen and watch the instructor. Despite the careers adviser at school and my parents trying to put me off, I was determined. However, to keep my parents happy, I enrolled on a 2 year college course for the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry – Private Secretary’s Course. The office based skills I learned such as RSA advanced level typewriting, shorthand, word processing, office practice and commerce has kept me in good stead. After leaving college in June 1990 to this current date, I have worked in many office jobs in a variety of industries such as commercial properties, community mental health, probation service, solicitors, accountancy and health services to fund my equine training, examinations and competitions.

In 1990, a chance discovery of an article in a magazine on side saddle riding by my mother led me to a new challenge of over 20 years competing in turn becoming a specialist instructor and judge - a discipline I am privileged to enjoy to this day.

After my side saddle competition horse died in 2013, I needed to find a new challenge which arrived in the form of a 15hh 4 year old grey Lusitano mare called Ginja who had (and still has) a diva attitude! She arrived in May 2015 and we have both learned so much – all to the credit of my trainer (Alexandra Downing). Without her expertise and knowledge, I would have struggled but I feel this little horse has made me into the rider/coach I am today. We are planning to get her to some competitions this year but it has taken a lot of time due to her being very tricky and far too clever for me to work out!

As a BHS Accredited Coach I can proudly offer:-

  • Over 30 years equestrian experience
  • Competed successfully in dressage up to elementary level (astride and side saddle) and show jumped up to 1.20m (astride and side saddle).
  • Experienced in coaching a wide variety of clients such as:-
    • Children and adults with confidence issues
    • Individuals with learning difficulties/challenging behaviour
    • Competition riders
    • Students for BHS assessments in their chosen professional pathways
    • Groups of young people and adults in both riding and stable management lessons
    • Pony club rallies
    • Lectured in a variety of colleges

Browse through my testimonials

Qualifications and Achievements

  • Accredited Professional Coach (BHS Stage 3 Coach in Complete Horsemanship) – formerly BHSAI (gained in 1998).
  • 1st three side saddle competency grades - September 1993.
  • “B” panel Side Saddle Instructor’s certificate - December 1993.
  • Highest side saddle competency grade IV+ - August 1997.
  • Side saddle panel ride Judge in 2003.
  • Fully insured.
  • Up-to date with: CPD, Equine-specific First Aid, Child Protection, Safeguarding, DBS Checked.

Aspirations and Motivations in your Work

  • My top priority is for the love, care and safety of the horse together with their rider.
  • I have a natural interest and passion for teaching, continued learning/research and improvement to maintain the professional high standards instilled through my lifelong training via The British Horse Society.
  • I gain immense satisfaction of seeing others achieve and reach their personal goals (however big or small).
  • I encourage pupil/s to take their own responsibility for the training and to gain their own self-motivation by being a thinking rider. The riders who achieve the most are those who can motivate themselves.
  • I have a genuine desire to pass on to others the sense of satisfaction which I enjoy as a rider/coach.
  • I endeavour to observe and work with the best trainers I can and am never afraid to ask for help.

Why should you choose me over other trainers

  • I am friendly, encouraging, enthusiastic and patient.
  • My sessions are fun, relevant, engaging and educational – explaining thoroughly the reasons behind everything I teach and advise in a relaxed and enjoyable manner.
  • Lessons are tailor made to riders/horses/ponies to a broad spectrum of abilities/backgrounds and their personal aims (whether you are a happy hacker to a competition rider) to enable you to reach your goals, increase your confidence and to implement what you have learned into your riding at home.
  • I have a critical eye for attention to detail.
  • I am organised and always forward planning.
  • I gain so much pleasure from helping riders on their own horses/ponies and watching the development of both ability and relationship.
  • I am dedicated to continuous professional development to ensure high standards are delivered.
  • Above all, I have a sense of humour!

My Side Saddle Riding Profile

I was inspired to try the art of side saddle riding in 1990 when my mother discovered an article in an equine magazine.

I had reached my final year with my 15hh Show Hunter pony so unfortunately, I could not afford to show horses into the adult senior rankings and sought a different challenge.

My first side saddle lesson was with Mark White (BHSII) at Heather Hall Riding School, Leicestershire before the establishment was closed. After half a dozen lessons, Mark encouraged me to continue with my side saddle riding.

After contacting The Side Saddle Association, I was advised to continue under the tutelage of Victoria Nurcombe (neé Thorne) who was based in Woodhouse Eaves, Leicestershire. Victoria had been a very successful side saddle rider in the 1970’s/1980’s and was crowned the Junior Side Saddle Rider of the Year in 1979.

In 1993, I developed my side saddle skills by training with the now late Roger Philpott at Pittern Hill Stables, Kineton, Warwickshire. I undertook my first three competency grades during September 1993 and was awarded the “B” panel Side Saddle Instructor’s certificate on 16 December 1993. I then gained the highest competency grade (IV+) on 15 August 1997 and became a side saddle panel ride Judge in 2003.

I showed my ex-Show Hunter pony in side saddle veteran classes and my mother’s 15.3hh Hanoverian/Thoroughbred mare in various equitation classes but most successfully in side saddle show jumping and working hunter classes.

My first appearance at the National Side Saddle Championships was at Malvern, Worcestershire in 1993.

I was then invited to ride Sue Thorne’s successful side saddle Show Hunter pony – Longclose Guilthwaite and returned to the National Side Saddle Championships in 1996 – some 17 years later when Victoria (Sue’s daughter) had been Junior Side Saddle Rider of the Year. We were successful in veteran and versatile pony classes.

Due to the lack of quality horses, I sadly had to take a break from side saddle riding from 1996 until 2002. I gained my BHSAI on 3 April 1998 and financed my tuition/examinations with various full time office jobs. I was fortunate and proud to be invited to teach the art of side saddle riding to a lovely group of ladies in Italy in December 2006. This invitation took place via a telephone call whilst waiting to compete in the Ladies Hunter class at The Royal Show in Warwickshire. I thought it was scam! I also enjoyed participating in side saddle demonstrations/presentations.

From 2002 to date, my side saddle ridden career (under the name of Sarah Walker) progressed from side saddle “wanna be” to Area champion and then to side saddle national champion.

Profile of Kharlo

In May 1998, I purchased a Cleveland Bay/Thoroughbred, bay gelding called Kharlo as a 4 year old from a dealer in Shropshire who specialised in buying young horses from the Goresbridge sales in Ireland. Kharlo was 15.3hh then but matured to 16.1hh at the age of 8.

Kharlo spent two years of his life having plenty of schooling and discipline as he was very wayward in his attitude! However, perseverance paid off and our competition highlights are as follows:-

August 2002

National Side Saddle Championships – Keysoe, Bedfordshire
5th Adult Novice Equitation and Large Riding Club Horse

August 2003

National Side Saddle Championships – Addington Manor, Bucks.
1st Adult Novice Dressage and Adult Costume Concours d’Elegance
4th Adult Intermediate Equitation

August 2004

National Side Saddle Championships – Addington Manor, Bucks.
1st Adult Intermediate Equitation
10th National Side Saddle Performance Points

Area 11 – winner of perpetual trophies: Senior Equitation, Dressage, Senior Champion and Overall Points Champion.

July 2005

Royal Welsh Show, Builth Wells
1st Open Equitation

August 2005

National Side Saddle Championships – Addington Manor, Bucks.
4th Adult Open Equitation

6th National Side Saddle Performance Points and National Dressage Champion.

Area 11 – winner of perpetual trophies: Jumping, Equitation, Showing, Dressage, Senior Points and Overall Points Champion.

During 2005, won 6 out of 8 Open Equitation classes.

April 2006

Area 18 Show, Croft Top Farm, Accrington, Lancashire (1st show of season)
3 wins in Concours d’Elegance, Open Equitation, Best Horse, Side Saddle Championship and Reserve Supreme in Show (gaining 4 trophies and sash)

July 2006

Royal Welsh Show, Builth Wells
1st Concours d’Elegance

Nantwich Show, Cheshire
1st Concours d’Elegance
1st Open Equitation (featured in Cheshire Life Magazine)

Prestbury Riding Club, near Manchester
3 wins in Concours d’Elegance, Open Equitation and Best Horse

August 2006

National Side Saddle Championships – Addington Manor, Bucks.
9th – after Open Equitation and Equitation Jumping. (Prix d’Excellance rosette for top 10 placing at Open level)

August 2006

Peover Game Fair, Peover, Cheshire
3 wins – Concours d’Elegance, Open Equitation and Classical Ladies, (qualification for 2007 National Championships), Championship Sash and £60 equine vouchers.

Area 11 – winner of perpetual trophies: Jumping, Senior Equitation, Showing, Dressage, Senior Champion and Overall Points Champion.

Unfortunately, 2007 was a complete wash-out (literally!) with many shows being cancelled nationwide due to extremely wet conditions. We only managed to compete at a handful of shows plus the championships. The highlights were as follows:-

May 2007

Leicester County Show
1st Costume Concours d’Elegance, 2nd Jump and Style

June 2007

Midland Counties, Uttoxeter Racecourse
3rd Open Equitation, Concours d’Elegance and Riding Club Horse

July 2007

Hales Show, Market Drayton, Shropshire
1st Open Equitation, Riding Club Horse, Costume Concours d’Elegance

August 2007

National Side Saddle Championships – Addington Manor, Bucks
3rd Caro Cripps (themed dressage to music = Saturday Night Fever)
3rd Costume Concours d’Elegance, 4th Large Performance Horse

August 2007

Peover Show, Cheshire
1st Open Equitation, 2nd Concours d’Elegance, 3rd Classical Ladies

December 2007

Huntersgate, Byley, Cheshire
1st Open Equitation, 1st Show Hunter and Supreme Champion

2008-2009: Escalating fuel and living costs brought a halt to our competing but continued to coach other riders to achieve their goals at county and national championship levels. Demos were also carried out at local, private yards to promote the art of side saddle riding.

2010: saw a return to the show ring. However, at the beginning of the year it was doubtful whether this would happen as Kharlo was referred to Dr Sue Dyson of the Animal Health Trust, Newmarket and was diagnosed with arthritis of both front feet and near side hock. After treatment from Chris Lehrbach of Chapelfields, Long Stratton (what a saint he was) and corrective farriery, we achieved amazing results:-

June 2010

Suffolk County
1st Classical Ladies (qualification to the National Side Saddle Champs)

June 2010

Area 4 Show, Bury St Edmunds
1st Open Equitation, Costume Concours and Adult Championship

August 2010

Wayland Agricultural Show, Watton, Norfolk
1st Pre-Veteran Ridden (qualification for Veteran Horse Society Regional Final)

National Side Saddle Championships – Addington Manor, Bucks
1st Pre-Veteran Horse/Pony, 3rd Large Performance Riding Club Horse,
4th Costume Concours d’Elegance, 5th Adult Restricted Equitation

September 2010

Gransden & District Show, Great Gransden, Nr Cambs
2nd Best Horse/Pony, Best Riding Club Horse/Pony
3rd Concours d’Elegance, 4th Open Equitation (also Best Turned Out)

June 2011

Area 4 Show, Bury St Edmunds
1st Classical, Concours, Costume and Adult Championship (2nd year running)

July 2011

Easton College, Easton, Norwich
1st Open Equitation

August 2011

National Side Saddle Championships – Addington Manor, Bucks
1st Costume Concours d’Elegance, 3rd Adult Restricted Equitation
3rd Freestyle Dressage to Music, 5th Pre-Veteran Horse/Pony

June 2013

Kharlo died from atypical myopathy. My heart was broken.