Guess what?! We’ve been lucky enough to interview international dressage rider (and the undeniably glamorous), Gemma Owen. Following her time on Love Island, we were keen to learn more about Gemma as an equestrian, away from her busy schedule as an influencer, ambassador, savvy businesswoman and daughter.
As a rider at the top of her sport, we wanted to find out more about Gemma’s history in equestrianism, what she’s most proud of, her current horse Sirius Black, and what her plans are for the future (on horseback of course).
First of all, a huge thanks to Gemma for taking time out to answer our questions.
- Following your time as a contestant on Love Island 2022, have you been able to spend as much time as you’d like with your horse?
In the first few weeks after returning home, things were totally manic, but now things are more settled, I am able to ride again most days which is great. I’ve started to get back out to some competitions too, which feels amazing.
- What level do you most enjoy riding at?
I’m currently training at PSG / Inter 1 level and Siz has been an amazing schoolmaster for me to learn at this level, although he’s not as straight forward as some people think! He has a genuine heart though and really is a horse of a lifetime.
- What’s your favourite dressage movement, how long did it take to perfect and why?
Probably tempi changes because Siz finds them so easy so it was quite easy to pick up. Worst, is definitely canter pirouettes! Siz is a very big boy and doesn’t find them easy so I was always going to struggle. I’m getting better at them though, but it’s definitely a work in progress.
- As an equestrian, what is your biggest achievement to date?
Definitely the European Championships last year. Since I made the GB u16 squad when I was 11 years old, competing at the Euros has always been a dream. I’ve worked hard for many years but fallen short a few times so to have finally achieved my goal felt amazing.
- What do you have planned for 2023 in the saddle? Can we expect to see you competing at many local, national, or international events?
The plan is to get out locally as much as possible – I think that’s important to not get ‘ring rusty’ and then I have earmarked a couple of high profile shows so hopefully will get those in too before the Premier League season starts in March time. I would love to get out to another international at some point next year too at ‘small tour’ level, but I will have to wait and see.
- If not dressage, what other discipline would you choose and why?
I’d probably say show jumping. When I first started riding, I wanted to do show jumping but I had a couple of falls and knocks to my confidence so that’s when I started to focus more on dressage. I don’t think I have the nerve for eventing, I really have absolute respect for riders in that discipline!
- Who is your dressage hero, and why do they inspire you?
There are so many riders that inspire me to be honest I couldn’t pick just one. We have such amazing talent in this country with Lottie Fry and obviously Charlotte Dujardin to name just a couple and then I also love to watch riders from across Europe like Catherine Defour. To be honest, I love watching so many riders at top level and they all have their own individual style, and you can pick up a lot from just watching the best.
- Can you tell us more about your horse, Sirius Black?
So, Sirius Black is’ Siz’ to us. He’s a 17.1h Hanoverian by Stedinger and we bought him back in 2018. Everyone that meets Siz or has anything to do with him falls in love with him. He is the most well-mannered horse on the ground I’ve ever owned and is literally like a big Labrador. Like any horse, he does have his quirks though and when I first had him home I had real difficulty getting to grips with him. He’s not an ’easy’ ride like most people assume and if you put too much pressure on him he really gets upset. I really took my time understanding him and had a lot of help from Peter Storr (who previously owned and produced him) and my trainer Sarah Higgins. He’s quite a strong boy and is obviously big – I’m 5ft2 so that can be challenging at times but riding him has taught me so much.
- Where do you train, and who is your coach?
I’ve trained with Sarah Higgins for the last 3 years or so. I’ve known Sarah for years and her mum actually used to teach me when I was tiny doing pony club-level stuff. Sarah and I have a brilliant relationship and share the same sense of humour which makes training and competing a lot of fun.
- What equestrian item could you not live without?
My NAF products and supplements for Siz. He’s getting on a bit now and so I’m using supplements a lot more than I have done with previous horses. The main ones I use for Siz are SuperFlex Senior, Muscle Power and Pro feet. I also put him on NAF Gastri-Aid for when we’re travelling or away at shows for a few days.
A good riding outfit is a necessity for me, so I am so excited to be working with Holland Cooper Equestrian. I have been shopping the collection for years, and I love that they share my passion for the sport, so when the Founder, Jade Holland Cooper approached me, it was the perfect fit.
Products above: Holland Cooper Equestrian Heritage Sport Base Layer (Mulberry) £79 and Heritage Sport Leggings (Mulberry) £79
Having been riding as much as possible since leaving the villa, comfort and durability are essential, and style is also crucial for me. The Holland Cooper Equestrian collection reflects this perfectly. I wear their products daily. I couldn’t live without their leggings and base layers. The leggings have a super flattering high-waisted fit, and they are made from quick dry fabric, which is ideal for training and are not at all see-through! The base layers are designed to keep you cool whilst training but also provide an insulating layer during the winter, and of course the design is gorgeous. I’m a huge fan of gold so I absolutely love the gold detailing!
- How do you juggle being a businesswoman, ambassador, influencer, AND an equestrian?
It can be quite challenging to fit everything in but I’m so grateful for all the opportunities that are coming my way at the moment and I’m loving every minute of it. I have an amazing support network which I couldn’t do any of it without. My management, trainer and family (in particular my mum) support me massively and help keep me organised so I can fit everything in.
- What do you enjoy/helps you to relax in your down time (if you get any)?
To be honest at the moment just being at home and doing the simple things like going out for something to eat with family or catching up on a series or something like that. As many of you may already know I love the sun so a few days away in the sun is always the best way for me to properly relax.
- What’s your favourite childhood memory on horseback?
I can’t think of one particular memory, but I always think back to brilliant times when I was around 7 or 8 and at the time I was riding my pony Flash (who is now my little sister’s pony and still going strong!) He was the best confidence-giving pony and literally could do everything. I had so much fun with him and he has a big personality. He must be about 30 years old now and is still the biggest character on the yard.
- Could you ever imagine a life without horses?
No never. Having spent such a long time away over the summer from Siz – training and competing – it made me realise more than ever that horses and dressage will always be a part of my life. Obviously, I have a lot of things going on in my life right now and to ride at top level you need to live and breathe it, day in, day out. I’m realistic and realise I probably won’t have the time to focus on trying to get to another European Championships for a while, but I definitely still want to compete at the highest level I can and at the biggest competitions I can and who knows for the future.
- Do you get involved in your dad’s endeavour into horse racing, or are you strictly dressage?
Dad has tried many times to get me on a racehorse. I’ve had a go once up the gallops on one and it’s obviously so different to dressage and uses different muscle groups. I have considered taking part in a charity race depending on if my schedule will allow the training. It’s something I can definitely see myself doing but just need to make sure I have the time to fit in a lot of training – I’m too competitive to do it and not prepare properly for it!