Born to a naturally gifted horse family (her brother, father, cousins and uncles are top Polo players) you could say that horses are in Sophia’s blood.
A determined and dedicated showjumper herself, in the last few years she has made her mark as a regular in the prize giving at some of the worlds most well known 2* shows on both sides of the Atlantic.
Splitting her year between the USA and Europe with her partner Ben Maher, competing and training to climb up the international classes sounds like a dream for most of us so I wanted to spend 5 mins chatting to Sophia to find out how she makes it work…..
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN RIDING? SHOWJUMPING? AND WHY SHOWJUMPING?
I have been riding polo ponies my entire life, without actually playing competitively the sport myself, I have always been around it. My mom was the show jumper of the family, so she bought me a little pony that I could play polo on and occasionally jump a few jumps at home for fun. I didn’t start showjumping properly until about 7 years ago, just before I met my now boyfriend Ben.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LIVING, TRAINING AND COMPETING IN EUROPE AND USA WITH YOUR HORSES?
I haven’t actually done a huge variety of shows in America and mainly have focused on Wellington and Kentucky. Both of these shows are for an extended period of time, which is nice in some ways but its also good to move and get experience in other locations. I do like it in Europe with he flexibility of being able to go to a different show in a different country every week and its easy to get home when the show is finished.
HOW DOES IT WORK WITH BOTH YOU AND YOUR PARTNER BEING RIDERS?
Its nice actually, I think being a rider myself, although not at the level Ben is at, helps me understand how much the sport entails for him to be where he is and wants to be. I can appreciate the time, work and dedication he puts in which actually inspires me to do better.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY FOR YOU WHEN NOT AT A SHOW?
It does depend where I am but normally I get up, make coffee, feed our dogs, then we head over to the stables. Once I’m done riding, I usually run a few errands which vary between horse related and Ben related! I also have taken cooking classes as Ben likes to eat the majority of the time at home and I was not such a good cook! I also always try to make time for a run either later in the afternoon or if I know we will have a busy day ahead, I try to go early morning.
WHAT IS YOUR ROUTINE WHEN AT A SHOW? TO GET PREPARED FOR THE RING?
I always get nervous pre-competion, I’m a massive chicken! I usually walk the course with Maggie who happens to be my best friend and also Ben’s rider/second hand which is great due to the fact she’s not only an amazing rider but also an unbelievable trainer. Before my class I try to spend most of my time with her as she has a super positive and encouraging way about her and will make sure I really understand the course and how to execute my plan before I go in.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT SINCE STARTING TO SHOWJUMP?
To be really honest, I just can’t believe this is what I get to do with my life so everything seems to be a positive achievement. But personally I feel for me, the biggest so far is my horse Senti. He wasn’t actually purchased for me but instead was bought by my parents for Ben to produce and ride and it was only because I was short of a horse to take to the GCT show in Miami 2 years ago that Ben said for me to take him. I only got to jump him once at home before we went straight to the show but we jumped clear everyday. After the show, Ben said that due to Senti still being young, he could benefit from getting some mileage in the smaller classes. Long story short…….Ben never got him back! We have done everything together and learnt as we have gone up the classes, so I am feel really proud that we are now jumping the 1.40m classes.
WHAT HORSES DO YOU CURRENTLY HAVE IN YOUR TEAM?
I have SENTI – 9yrs, TUCKER – 7yrs, HAVANA – 15yrs, ELVIS – 6yrs and KIDA – 13yrs.
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN AND WHO BY?
Probably that everyone has good days and everyone has bad days and you can learn from both the good and the bad days so don’t just dwell on the bad. (My mom told me this)
WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS FOR THE FUTURE BOTH PERSONALLY AND IN THE SPORT?
I would like to be able to bring Senti up as far as we both can go but I don’t want to feel like I’m the reason holding him back. In a minute I’m sure he will out grow me and need someone better like Ben, but for the meantime I’d really like to try to be the one to get the most out of him….only time will tell I suppose!
You can follow Sophie on –
Instagram – @sophiagracida
Twitter – @sophiegracida
Facebook – Sophia Gracida