We asked Zara:
Which horse and rider combinations did you admire growing up?
She said: ” Because both my parents rode I would often follow them around. I was always at events and knew a lot of the riders. I used to help at competitions and groom for the New Zealand team as my dad trained them.
When I started competing Pippa Funnel and William Fox-Pitt were the big names, so it’s great to be competing with them now after helping out as a teen!”
Will you encourage your daughter to ride?
“I will in the beginning. It’s good for balance and being outdoors. Looking after an animal is a big responsibility so it’s a great hobby to be brought up with – it teaches lots of values of life and is good for character.”
What advice would you give to young riders at riding schools who aspire to be top riders?
“Work at yards, top yards if you can, as much as you can. Hopefully you can get some riding work and go from there. You have to work your way up. Even if you have got your own horse or pony you have o work your way up!”
Have you ever considered any other discipline or career in equestrianism?
“Not really! I did train a couple of point-to-pointers, but that was really for fun. I love the sports psychology side of things. I find it really interesting how people get through their training and competitions and justify it all!”
If you weren’t a top rider, what would you have liked to be?
“Growing up I wanted to be an ice skater, but that was because of Torvil and Dean! It would definitely have been a sport. I’d love to be artistic but I’m not!”
Are you superstitious or do you have any pre-competition rituals?
“I used to never wear any new items of clothing at an event, and I had a favourite pair of socks! But the socks died and I had a couple of bad years so that all went. So not really anymore.”
What tips would you give readers on how best to walk a cross country course?
“Depending on what horse you’re riding, make your own decisions. If you’re walking in a group and other people are not sure about fences or don’t like the look of some things, don’t listen. You should know what you and your horse or pony are capable of and think about that in the way you’re going to ride. Think about your and your pony’s strengths and weaknesses and plan your course accordingly.”
Which phase do you have to work hardest at?
“Probably dressage and show jumping. Because I’m naturally more cross country, when you take it to show jumping it’s a very different way of jumping. And dressage you always have to work at!”
Which event is your favourite?
“I do like Burghley – it’s a tough competition and at the end of the season so a bit more relaxed. Bramham is fun and a nice competition to ride at.”
Who is your favourite horse of all time and why?
“I’m lucky I grew up with a horse that I went to the senior championships with. We worked up the levels together and he taught me everything. I had the horse of a lifetime early!
High Kingdom is a good horse. He’s not the same kind of mover as Toytown but he works much harder, because he’s not quite so much of a natural. Toytown found it all quite easy! But High Kingdom is a better jumper than Toytown and he gets better every year.”
What are you goals for the future?
“The 2016 Olympics in Rio is the next goal. High Kingdom is good enough to go!”
Zara is trained to do human and equine sports massage.
“Ponies love to test people! If ponies are naughty they’re not doing it to upset you. Get to know them and gain their trust, and you will soon learn about their characteristics.”