Originally from the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia, Amy Graham is one of Australia’s elite Showjumpers. Graham left Australia more than 10 years ago to base herself in Europe, where she has experienced years of success. Since May 2019, Graham has improved her FEI world ranking from more than 2000 to 476 at the end of March 2020, where she is the fourth highest ranked Australian rider. In 2012, Graham was the travelling reserve for the Australian team at the London Olympics. Australian Jumping asked Amy some questions about her career.
Name: Amy Graham
Lives: Normandy, France
Occupation: International Competitor and Sports Horse Trainer
At what age did you start riding and who introduced you? I was six years old when I started to ride. I had begged my parents for a while, so the story goes, but they refused, then my Nanny bought a Shetland pony for Christmas and told my parents to tell me I couldn’t have it! Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of memories from this pony, but I’ve been told she was very naughty. She would bolt and I would often fall off and have to walk home. Apparently, I didn’t give up.
Tell us about your first horse: My first horse was a slow thoroughbred called Majestic. Basically, I wanted something that would showjump. He was very sweet and easy, a lot different to Fluffy.
How many horses do you currently have in work? Currently in work we have about 30 horses. A lot of youngsters from various breeders and owners. For the shows I have seven horses from 7-years-old to 12-years-old.
Amy-Graham and Viti de Longa in the LGCT Rome. Photo Credit Michelle Terlato
Which horse is your current star and do you have any future stars? Coleraine is my Grand Prix mare at the moment. She’s got a fantastic attitude and is a real pleasure to work with every day. Another horse with a special character is Crack d’la Rouserie. He has a very successful family (a full brother and sister that jump 5* GP) but he is probably the most challenging horse of my life so far. A new horse arrived on the team while I was in America. He is an 8-year-old from a local breeder in Normandy, that gives an incredible feeling on the jumps and in his day to day training. I’m really excited to start showing with him.
Who was the biggest influence on your riding? I would say Michelle Strapp has been my biggest influence so far. As a trainer we worked together for four years and she would have made the biggest changes to my riding during that time. I learnt the basis of flat work for jumping and stable management. After this, I moved to Europe and worked closely with various trainers. Currently I’m working with Julie Ulrich. Julie is an American trainer and has the deepest knowledge and passion of any trainer I’ve ever worked with. She can find the good in any horse and teach a lesson from it.
What do you look for in a horse? I love supple horses with a good push off the floor. Light but strong and with some blood and a lot of intelligence. I think with a big heart, horses with less ability often can go further than you think.
How do you prepare your horse for a big class and what is important for your warm-up? I’ve always believed in the 3 P’s (preparation, preparation and preparation). It starts with the preparation at home, then the course-walk and then the practice ring. After that, if it doesn’t go to plan, go back home and start again! Also, I learnt that a relaxed horse is more likely to give you his/her best performance than a stressed or tired one. Relaxation work in the preparation for Coco, for example, if a huge part of her work.
What are your biggest competitive achievements to date? One show that stands out is a 4* in Salzburg, Austria where I won the three big classes of the weekend. Bella was on fire and couldn’t be beaten, it was incredible. Of course, jumping at WEG in Normandy was also a great achievement but I know that I can do an even better result in the future.
Australia’s 2020 Nations Cup Team. Rowan Willis, Hilary Scott, Todd Hinde (Chef), Amy Graham and Scott Keach.
What are your short and long-term goals? My short-term goal is to not go crazy during this lockdown! Long Term, I would like to build my stable into a viable business that allows me to be self-sufficient in Europe, producing young horses for the sport and to jump GP classes each year. I would love to represent Australia again in Tokyo or Paris or Samorin 2022.
Who are your role models (Australian and/or international)? I’m a huge fan of Katharina Offel and Beezie Madden. I am learning to be a more forward and competitive rider and I really look up to these two women.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given? From the current lockdown – the future starts now, not when we load the truck. Every good rider is at home improving, the rest are taking a break. Be in the first group!
Tell us a few things we don’t know about you. Europe is lonely, but everyone living over here from Australia knows that. I’m scared of the dark…still! Chocolate isn’t actually my favourite food, watermelon is. Apparently, I’m funny, but I didn’t know that people didn’t know that.