Showjumping is clearly in the genes as two Lancashire sisters born into a horse-loving family have gained notoriety in an international equestrian show.
With their mum a Ladies National Champion and their grandfather riding horses in the Olympics, it is no surprise Sophie and Lucy Bowen-Howard excelled in the Liverpool International Horse Show (LIHS), competing in showjumping classes in the Echo Arena.
The LIHS welcomed world-class riders from around the globe where they competed for a £160,000 total prize fund.
Sophie, 15, was among the top junior (under 16 year olds) riders in the country, earning her a invitation to compete in the International Horse Show.
She took part in the 148 class, which is the biggest size for a pony before it grows into a mature horse. She placed eighth in her class.
Nine-year-old Lucy meanwhile took part in the Mini Major class, which teamed younger riders up with professionals in a relay type course, and calculated the pairs’ combined times. Lucy also came eighth.
This year the Nateby Primary School pupil competed with Italian international rider Emmanuelle Gaudino, and she was the youngest rider competing.
She was returning to the Echo Arena after jumping in the same class in the event last year as well.
Classes at the three-day LIHS included the 128cm (referring to the size of the horse) pony jump off, the horse sport Ireland 1.30m amateur grand prix, and the Equestrian.com Liverpool International CS14* Grand Prix. The Shetland Pony Grand National also returned, an organisation which raises money for charity, and appears at several equestrian events throughout the year.
Showjumping is certainly a family affair.
The Howard family own and sell horses all over the world, which go on to compete on the international circuit, and the girls’ mum, Sarah Bowen, was the Ladies National Champion, and has competed for the country on an international level. Sarah’s father David competed professionally and rode horses in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
The girls are trained by their parents in the yard at their house in Out Rawcliffe, making it a family business.
Their dad, Downes Howard says: “They both ride nights after school as we have our own indoor arena so it makes it a lot easier to ride at night, especially in winter.”
Sophie, who attends Garstang Academy, has committed most of her life to training and competing. She says: “I’ve been riding and competing since I was three years old, in small pony competitions.
“My favourite equestrian is a German show-jumper named Meredith Michaels Beerbaum. She does really well internationally, so I really look up to her.” Sophie is certainly heading in the right direction of her idol, winning several national classes in the UK, and coming second in the under 16s class at Scope festival.
Meanwhile, Lucy, who has also been riding since she was three years old, competes in a lot of the same events as her big sister, at a lower level, and won her first competition at the young age of four, coming first in her class at an event in Scotland.
Sophie and Lucy also do their best to help out with things like grooming and mucking out when they have time.
Sophie adds: “We try our best to help out around the yard as much as possible, but with school, homework, and competing every weekend it is a struggle to fit everything in, although I had to take some time off school to compete.
“The school is really supportive of me, but they just want to make sure I catch up with my work as I have my GCSE’s next year.”
Once she finishes school, she’s hoping to study sport at university, as well as keeping up her riding and staying on the competition circuit.
Sophie owns and competes on three horses.
She reveals: “My ponies are called Quincy V, Whitehorn Girl, and Dafina K, all of which compete internationally. Whitehorn Girl won the horse of the year show, and Quincy V and Dafina K both competed in the Europeans, for Denmark and Germany respectively.
“I rode Dafina K at the European Trial this year in the Pony Premier show, which I won, and Quincy V and I came second in two major grand prix, as well as coming second in the national final. I also won the Wales and West Derby with Whitehorn Girl.
“Lucy’s pony is called Tilly. Her show name is Bowden Farm Tigerlilly.”
The Shetland Pony Grand National also returned, an organisation which raises money for charity, and appears at several equestrian events throughout the year, ending with the LIHS.
In addition to her other achievements Sophie has also competed in London’s Olympia Horse Show which hosts all three Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Cup Qualifiers in Dressage, Show-Jumping, and Driving.
She finished eighth in her class. Prior to this she also won the European Trial at South View Competition and Training Centre, Cheshire in July 2016, which sees riders qualify for the British Masters event which takes place each summer, and invites riders from around the world to compete against each other for a total £100,000 prize pool.
Sophie’s next competition is in Cheshire, and she says she’s looking forward to it: “I am excited, but I’m also quite nervous as it’s a qualifier.”