My ‘Road to Rio’!


Sophie W and JM

Sophie Wells MBE at her base in Harby, Notts with JM.

This is of course meant in a vicarious sense because there is more chance of finding rocking horse poo than there is of me qualifying for dressage at the Rio 2016 Games…maybe 2024, ‘if your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough’!!  No, I’m actually referring to our ‘local’ dressage superstar, Sophie Wells MBE from Harby, Nottinghamshire.  Sophie, after Team Gold medal success at London 2012 and 2014 World Equestrian Games, has qualified for Team GB Paralympic Dressage in the Summer and she’s only 26. In Nottinghamshire as well as in the wider horse community we’re all behind her of course as well as all the GB Olympic and Paralympic equestrians in their quest for 2016 participation.

I am lucky enough though to have lessons with Sophie on my TB, Mojo or ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’ (should have been ‘[s]He Moves in Mysterious Ways’ if we were going for song lyrics…..) as does my wife, Dawn on her coloured, Miller. I first met Sophie in March and have to say that for someone of relatively tender years yet with so much success already she is very grounded and is also very intuitive as a trainer. She noticed straight away that I wasn’t helping Mojo on 20 metre circles with where I was putting my weight.  In 45 minutes Sophie had helped me to see that it was perfectly possible to guide Mojo in circles and spirals using just my weight and the reins being used only for ‘bend’ getting a much better outline than I had before. Mojo can be a handful so I was glad to be in expert hands.


Sophie at London 2012

One other thing that helped is Sophie’s voice projection, I’m a bit deaf but I had no trouble even though it was a really windy day. After a spell competing in France and coaching in Belgium Sophie is back now and I’m ready for my next lesson on 21st May.  I had plenty of homework last time, let’s see if it’s paid off.

me n moj

In ‘competition mode’.

One of the factors that made me pick equine sports regulation as a research interest and indeed for a PhD thesis topic was the fact that I am active in the sport, albeit very much at grass roots level. This gives me a useful perspective and means I don’t have to have too many ‘head-space’ compartments as work, research and pleasure overlap in a useful, stress-reducing way, so far anyway…

Good luck Sophie, and all the Team GB Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls.


About Dr Jonathan Glen Merritt

Senior Lecturer in Sports Law and Criminal Justice, and a member of the Sports Law Unit at Leicester De Montfort University School of Law, UK. PhD in Equine sports law governance, especially disciplinary structures. Also competing as an owner and rider with British Dressage. Obviously all views expressed are author's alone except where a guest author has contributed.
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