Thirteen year old Sophia Carlon is living her dream representing Australia in international show jumping.
When did you first become interested in horses and show jumping?
I first became interested in horses when I saw my sister just having fun; I always wanted to copy her, and I loved watching her. I started when I was three and I didn’t start jumping until I was six or seven, when I finally got a horse that would actually jump and not buck me off. I started at the 40 cm classes, and I worked my way up with new horses helping me out and building up my confidence. I now jump as high as 1.3 m.
You are travelling to Mexico to represent Australia in the FEI Children’s International Classic finals. Tell us more about this event…
I have been selected to go and compete in Mexico to represent Australia in the FEI Children’s International Classic Finals in January 2015. There are a total of 16 youth show jumpers worldwide, of which the top two from Australia were chosen; I was one of them, and my friend from Victoria, Jasmine, was the other one. We go over to Mexico, and all the sixteen horses ridden are loan horses from show jumpers in Mexico – we draw one of these horses to ride. We have two 30 minute sessions to learn and get to know the horse, and then we have to go and jump the 1 metre 20 track each day.
I’m representing Australia for five days of tough competition on a horse that I have not ridden before, which could be very different from my horse in Australia.
What preparation goes into reaching this elite level, especially at such a young age?
I have to be dedicated and have a goal where I want me and my horse to be. To jump the height my horse jumps, she has to be fit, and this normally involves 20 minutes’ fitness daily for both Gemma and me. Depending on how my horses jumped the prior weekend will depend on what fitness I do that week. Normally the week’s fitness does not involve jumping – just building up the fitness and muscle in my horses.
We spend a lot of weekends away competing in competitions, and these can be as far away as Sydney and QLD. To compete at this high level of jumping, we need to be a team, and that means spending time bonding with my horses – even if it is just giving them a carrot to say good morning.
Tell us about your horses …
My main horse, It’s Jealousy, is also known as “Gemma” at home. She is an Irish Sport Horse grey mare, and she’s 16.2 hands. Gemma is the horse that qualified me to go to Mexico, and she is the one who has really brought me to where I am today. Sometimes I make mistakes into a lead up into a jump, and Gemma always has my back and gets us out of trouble – Gemma is everybody’s dream horse.
I also have Marcel Marceau, known as Marcie at home, who is a warmblood paint horse – he is only a new addition to our show jumping family and is my second junior horse. I am looking forward to jumping Marcel and bringing him up the ranks like Gemma. My sister also has a lovely horse, Issy, who is out of the same dad as Gemma, and that makes up our family show jumping team.
Gemma is the oldest (13) then Marcie is 7 and Issy 6, so we have a great team of horses.
How do you juggle school and show jumping?
I am only in Year 7 at the moment, so school has not been hectic yet; however, my horses always come first. As soon as I get home from school, I do my horses and then fit homework in after that. I compete at a lot of competitions that involve travel and days away from school; I always let my school, O’Connor Catholic College, know and they have been very supportive of my show jumping and take great interest when I return to school in how I went.
You must have great support around you; whom would you like to thank?
I have plenty of support from friends and relatives all over the place, but I would like to thank in particular my mum Karen, my dad Brett, my sister Breana and my nan. To be successful and to ride for Australia, it has taken a lot of miles in the truck to go and compete everywhere; Mum and Dad always make sure we are there competing, and plenty of times we get back at midnight Sunday night for Mum and Dad to face the week at work and turn around and do it all again on the Friday. My sister is my number one strapper, and Nan is always there on the other end of the phone or video camera watching. I also would like to thank my Coach, Katie Clark, who has trained me since the Ekka this year; she is awesome. Katie is always there at competitions walking the course, warming up and giving me the thumbs up at the end, with some tips on what I did right or what I could do better.
Plans for the future?
My plans for the future are:
1. I want to do well in Mexico next year and do Australia proud.
2. I will be competing at Sydney Royal in the Juniors over Easter.
3. I want to qualify to go to the Youth Olympics.
4. I want to do a World Cup one day; this is a high level jump, and then of course my dream is to go to the Olympics.