“No one cares if your flying changes are late. You only need one saddle. You don’t need to plait, except for the big classes. And there’s no galloping up a hill every Thursday rain, hail or shine,” says long-time eventer turned showjumper Amanda Ross.
Amanda had been an avid eventer since her Pony Club days. By her late teens, she was training in the UK, and returning home at age 20 she purchased the horse that would ultimately take her to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games seven years later – Otto Schumaker. For the next 20 years, Amanda devoted her life to eventing with much success, being named reserve for three World Equestrian Games.
Now the 48-year-old has taken on a new challenge: showjumping. “I really feel that I need to do something that gives me a challenge as a rider, something that I look forward to every day… I’ve found my new passion!” she declares.
Amanda explains that it wasn’t a conscious decision to switch disciplines, but rather a change that came about organically through circumstance. Following her Tokyo selection campaign, two of her top eventers – Koko Popping Candy (Zarzy) and Dicavalli Diesel (Diesel) – were retired from competition. “I ended up buying both from owners Fraser and Chrissy Brown – Diesel for $1,” she explains. “With Zarzy, we put her in foal as she has been a very good and well performing mare, while Diesel is semi-retired and I practise dressage on him… I love him, he’s my heart horse and he still thinks he’s going to Paris. No one’s told him he’s not!
“Another of my eventers, whom I half-owned, Dondiablo (Lewis), was getting a little older. He didn’t owe me anything; he had done incredibly well. I thought it was time that he taught somebody else and brought another rider up the ranks. He’s gone to a fantastic young rider, and he’s showjumping,” says Amanda.
That left the two newer horses to the stable, Irish imports RLE Poynstown Will (Vendi) and RLE Cavalier Vivendi (Hughie). “I felt Hughie was always going to be a top-level eventer, as cross country is his thing. He’s been sold to a wonderful girl who’s hoping to head overseas next year.”
A NEW ADRENALINE RUSH
Amanda credits Vendi with being the horse who triggered her showjumping change. “As an eventer, he always struggled a bit with the dressage. I found that he wasn’t the happiest horse when I had to push him on the flat all the time. At the beginning of 2020, when we were gearing up for Tokyo, I didn’t think he would perform a dressage test that was going to get me on the Games team.” So rather than strive for a goal that didn’t suit the horse, Amanda took Vendi showjumping to see if that’s what he preferred and whether it made him a happier horse. It was a raging success, and a year later in March 2021, Amanda jumped her first World Cup with him at Werribee, placing tenth.