From the mountainous province of Isernia, showjumper Sara Battista is on a mission to bring prestige to Vardags Equestrian in her native Italy. She spoke to Vardags in between teaching riding lessons to share her horseback highlights, sing the praises of her equestrian heroes, and reveals the secret to showjumping success.
When did you first start riding?
I started riding when I was eight years old. I live in Isernia, a little province in Molise in the south of Italy. When I was younger there were not many places to practice riding so I started horseback riding, developing a great passion for both the animal and the sport. This led me to the world of showjumping.
What is a typical day of work for you?
Every day I arrive at my equestrian centre, Scuderia del sole, at 9am, after bringing my five-year-old son to school. I immediately begin training with Ayesha’s horses, Corino and Ersina and then with my horses—Black Honey and Don Cascarito. Sometimes I also ride my students’ horses and, after a short lunch break in the afternoon, I have two or three hours of lessons. It’s a busy day but very rewarding.
It sounds it! How many students do you have?
10! I have been teaching horseback for many years and I have had many students – both competitors and beginners. When I started this job here in Isernia, it was not easy. There was not a lot in the way of equestrian culture and it was hard to get good results.
I am a comprehensive teacher and I believe that every student is different from the other, so it’s important to tailor your approach, both psychologically and technically, to get the best out of everyone. My students have found success in many Italian Championships and the fact that we come from such a small place makes me all the more proud. I’m sure their success will continue into the future.
What makes a good rider?
A good equestrian rider must be brave, and not get very emotional. But above all a good equestrian rider must be humble, because in sport—as in life—there’s always something to learn.
What qualities you look for in a horse?
Power, courage and speed. But with a good rider every horse can improve, in my opinion.
Do you have a favourite Vardags Equestrian horse?
I don’t have favourites – I think each of them have qualities that make them unique, but I see Corino and Ersina every day, and I love them very much. Corino and I have been competing together for a year; he’s a very sweet horse but also really fearful, perhaps because of his past experiences. But we have a nice bond and have developed a special relationship. Ersina and I have known each other for five months. What she lacks in experience, she makes up for in generosity of spirit.
Could you tell us a bit about your first competition? Were you nervous?
Oh, yes. During my first competition I was just ten years old and I was very nervous. If I remember correctly, the competition didn’t go very well. But it challenged me to work hard and improve.
A great attitude to have! Where is the best place you have competed?
In Italy, the best place to complete is definitely the Arezzo equestrian centre in Tuscany. It has nice buildings, beautiful fields and a good course. I also like the Horses Riviera resort, which is also in Italy—near Milan.
What’s your favourite part of the sport?
The awards ceremony! No, I’m joking, my favourite part of showjumping is the moment I’m in the arena and the bell that starts the race sounds. At that moment I’m at maximum concentration to try to win.
How do you mentally and physically prepare for a competition?
I train myself and my horses every day, so we are always ready for a competition. There are bad days but we try to move on from those.
What was your proudest equestrian moment?
I achieved fifth place in Alviano’s indoor Grand Prix at Play Horse Farm. For me it was a great result because I was competing with riders who were older and much more experienced than me.
What are your hopes for Vardags Equestrian in 2018?
At this moment all my horses are young and quite inexperienced. So this year is about preparing, growing and improving, and bringing prestige to the Vardags team here in Italy.
Who is your equestrian hero?
I very much like an Italian rider called Piergiorgio Bucci; he used to be my teacher and I learnt a lot from him. I also like Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, because she is short just like me but she’s very, very strong.
What advice would you give to an aspiring showjumper?
Never give up, work hard and be kind to both the horses and other people. Sooner or later, joy will come.
Finally, a very silly question to finish, would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?
I would definitely rather fight the one hundred duck-sized horses, because at least they are horses, and I know horses well!