[dropcap]J[/dropcap]ade Hooke has been SA’s darling since she claimed her first ‘surprise’ Derby win in 2009 followed by another in 2011. More recently she wowed us by finishing third in the Hickstead Derby and represented the country at the World Equestrian Games in 2014. Now, as she immerses herself in the tough world of international showjumping, Jade speaks to HQ about great horses, mucking out stables and planning for the long-term.
When did you start riding?
I started riding at the age of six at a small riding school near Jeffrey’s Bay in the Eastern Cape.
Does your family share your love of horses?
Yes. My mom, dad and sister all rode and competed in showjumping, although I’m the only one left in the saddle now.
Have you always loved showjumping? Who was your first competitive horse?
Yes! My first serious competitive horse was a mare called Star of Canada.
Give us a breakdown of your past few years of successful shows.
I moved to the UK in 2014 and shortly after that my horse, A New Era, joined me. The last couple of years I have worked extremely hard to achieve my goals. My highlights include jumping in the Hickstead Derby in 2014 as well as competing at the World Equestrian Games in 2014.
What has been your greatest riding moment so far?
Winning the Avis Derby in 2009 and in 2011, being placed third in the Hickstead Derby in 2014, and representing South Africa in the World Equestrian Games in 2014, which was an unbelievable experience.
What is your next competitive goal?
I don’t have any big competitive goals at the moment as I’ve decided to train and work for Tim Stockdale, one of the UK’s best equestrian athletes. However, if an offer presents itself whereby I am offered a horse to compete on, I will consider it.
Describe your ideal showjumper – conformation and temperament, for example.
My ideal horse is one who is willing to try, who is brave and has heaps of ‘blood’ and wants to fight for his rider; a horse who wants to do his job is great to work with. Above all a horse who is sound and injury free.
Do you have a horse who fulfils all these criteria?
Unfortunately not at the moment. My golden boy, A New Era, is getting on in age these days and has now moved back to SA.
How do you prepare for competition?
I have a few ways. I am in the process of setting good structures in place for show preparation. I think the key ingredient would be to arrive at the competition with confidence, knowing all the work has been done at home and you’re just adding the cherry on the cake when you go into the arena.
How do you cope with setbacks?
This is always tough. The last two years in the UK have had their fair amount of setbacks, and even at the moment I have no horses to compete at top international level, but I’m staying positive and focusing on my short-term goals. In the long run I know this will all pay off.
What is your ‘day job’ and how do you find time to ride?
I work full time at a stable yard. My day starts at 7:30am with feeding and mucking out stables. I generally start riding at 9am until 1pm. In the afternoon I do general yard duties such as putting the horses on the walker, cleaning tack and then feeding the horses before I go home at 5:30pm.
Do you have a fitness training schedule to stay in shape for riding?
Working in the yard is exercise enough for me. My triathlon has taken a back seat for the moment.
What do you do to keep your horses in top shape during competition?
During competition I make sure that my horses get out of the stables as much as possible during the day, and are warmed up and cooled down correctly. A strict feeding structure is in place which includes feeding the best possible supplements available. My horses are permanently on GCS-Max joint care and before shows they get Omepracote to prevent ulcers. It works wonders!
What does it take to get to the top in this sport and do you think SA riders have this X-factor?
It takes lots of hard work, persistence and determination … well at least I hope this is what is going to get me to the top of our sport. I believe South African riders definitely have the ability to make it to the top and I will encourage anyone who wishes to follow their dream to achieve this. It is very difficult once overseas as we lack the structure and financial support.