Originally from South Africa and a relatively non-horsey home, I decided at a very young age that ballet was not for me and that I'd rather be riding.
I learnt to ride in typical South African 'wild west' fashion - bareback in the wild outdoors, barefoot and in shorts, interspersed with more 'traditional' lessons. I was very fortunate in that I was able to ride a very wide range of horses and ponies - supervised and un-supervised - and very much allowed to make my own mistakes whilst also trying as many different things as I could. I was also introduced to and able to practice vaulting and natural horsemanship techniques - but mostly I was allowed to fall off a lot.
My family moved to England when I was 9, putting me into the BHS Riding School system - quite a shock after South Africa! After telling me I had a very good seat (jumping 4ft fences without a saddle clearly has its advantages!) - they then set about putting my ankles and elbows and ears in the right alignment. I'm pretty sure I then spent the next 3 years straight riding without stirrups (that's not true) and never fell off again (that's definitely not true). After a few years of going round in circles I was finally deemed aligned enough to get my own pony - a 13hh dappled grey Welsh B gelding who bucked me off when I went to try him! He was called Blue Charm, but being a proud South African and a fierce tomboy decided this was far too girly - so Shaka Zulu Warrior he became! Along with the rest of my yard at the time, I joined the Pony Club. With my background to say we weren't really a good fit would be a bit of an understatement. Still, I did the rallies and the training, got my Riding and Road Safety and learnt such essential skills as how to quarter a rug and the correct order in which to use the brushes in your grooming kit. During this time I also did a lot of study and training in various horsemanship techniques, enabling me to pick and choose according to the situation in front of me rather than being confined to one mindset. I had lessons with BHS instructors and International eventers and showjumpers and soaked up as many different techniques, opinions and methods as possible. I put these into practice straight away, riding a variety of young and novice horses At 15 we moved to Portugal where I started riding and training with show-jumper Antonio Reis, who yelled at me a lot. This seemed to work and my riding improved beyond recognition and again I was given the opportunity to ride a wide range of horses - only this time in a different league to anything I'd ridden before. And it hurt more when I fell off, so I learnt to do it less. With Antonio's guidance and shouting I quickly passed the Sela IV and Sela VII exams which enabled me to apply for a license to compete, at National (CSN) and International (CSI) level respectively, in show-jumping. With the help of my horse Grenat de Langers (Del Boy), I competed with much success and rose quickly through the ranks, competing against some of the country's and Europe's leading amateur and professional riders. Eventually I suffered a massive loss of confidence and gave up riding for several years to pursue studies in other areas, swearing I'd never get on a horse again. But this was never going to stick, so I got to work getting my confidence back and within 6 months of returning to riding had bought an unbroken 3yo, now called Troy!
I set up my business in Cheshire shortly after. With the help of my fantastic schoolmasters, I specialised in coaching riders getting into jumping, or who had suffered loss of confidence like I had. At the same time I did a lot of backing and breaking, schooling, selling and working with problem horses. In 2014 we relocated 'down south' and I am now based on the Wiltshire/Gloucestershire border. For the last few years I have been focusing on the sourcing, production and sale of quality sport horses for competition and riding club use. Working with and producing young horses is where my passion lies, along with helping riders to overcome their fears and achieve their goals. As well as producing, starting youngsters, competing and coaching I am also currently training to be a BS judge.
In 2018 I set up 'Team Derbz Sport Horses' in order to focus on breeding and producing quality sport horses for showjumping and eventing.