Sam Jeffree is a young man on a mission. At just 22, he was recently crowned Australian Eventing Champion after winning the CCI4*-S class at Wandin Park, and has a team of nine competition horses all competing at, or on their way to, FEI level.
“Winning is always a fantastic feeling, especially at the higher levels. Wandin was my first win at 4-star level, and while I’ve competed at that level before on my old horse Jaybee Calypso, I wasn’t always the most successful in the show jumping phase,” Sam enthuses. “Woodmount Lolita is such a fantastic horse, and for her to get me that first 4-star win was really special. I’ll always remember it as my first 4-star win – but hopefully there are many more to come!”
Sam’s win with Woodmount Lolita, known as ‘Lily’, at the Australian Eventing Champions in March was convincing from start to finish. After producing a winning dressage test, the pair added only cross country time penalties to their score, showing their class in all three phases.
“Lily is an amazing horse and she’s always going to have a chance to take out a competition, but eventing is a really tough sport and you never know what’s going to happen. The smallest error can have dire consequences. So at the end of the day, I wanted her to come home safe and sound, and she got the qualifier I was hoping for as well, looking ahead to future competitions,” Sam explains. “She was probably not at the level of fitness where we could push to go under time on cross country, but for where she was at in her fitness program, we did put our best foot forward in all three phases and I couldn’t have asked for much more than that. Looking forward, she could definitely go faster on the cross country but I was riding the horse that I felt underneath me on the day, and to walk away with the win as well was a bonus.”
Unlike Sam, who has been eventing since the tender age of 8 and seems to have been put on this earth to compete in the sport, Lily was bred to be a dressage horse and only started jumping when she was sent to Sam to be sold in 2017. The 2008 mare is by the Sandro Hit stallion Alessandro, and Sam is the first to admit that she’s not the typical eventing type; it’s her enormous heart and try that makes her special.
“A few years back Fiona Mitchell, who has been a long-term supporter of mine, actually recommended me to one of her neighbours to put some jumping training into Lily before putting her on the market. She had just been doing straight dressage with her owners and they had decided to sell her,” Sam explains. “To be honest, I didn’t really think very much of her at the start. She couldn’t really canter and she’s not the best build for eventing; if you put together an image of the perfect eventer, I don’t think it would look at all like her! But I remember that phone call to the owners after I jumped her for the first time. I said, ‘She doesn’t have any idea of what she’s doing, but she’s really bold, and she’s really careful!’”