5 minutes with Young Rider Amber Mactaggart
Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Amber Mactaggart, and I am a 19-year-old CCN1* level eventer located in Victoria, Australia.
Aside from my Nan, I have no family members that are horsey at all, which meant I was quite late to begin riding. I have 5 years of riding experience and 3 years of eventing experience, which is not a lot compared to other riders competing our level! I come from a very small town with not a lot of opportunities for the horse world, so my Nan and I have worked incredibly hard to get myself and my horses to where they are today with very little help, opportunities or facilities.
Can you tell us an interesting fact that not many people would know about you?
I think a lot of people would be surprised to know that I was never that young horse-crazy girl and I never really had an interest in horses or riding. It wasn’t until a close family friend who owned a farm, offered for me to buy and keep my first pony there. Even then, I still wasn’t wrapped in riding. I would get on for 5 minutes, canter up a small hill and get off. Honestly, my interest mostly peaked when I created a ‘horse Instagram’ and started to see all the cool things everyone did with horses. That was when I began to work harder, create goals and try to ‘look like the people on Instagram’.
What are your future riding goals?
At the moment, Eli and I are working toward 2* level (which we have qualified for) and are aiming for MI3DE in 2021. We are praying COVID-19 is over by then so that the event goes ahead and we can get in some 2* runs to qualify for Melbourne.
Having a large social media following undoubtedly comes with added pressure, how do you cope?
When I was younger I definitely felt the pressure more, I was always so conscious to make sure my position was perfect, that I had top quality content and also tried so hard to keep people interested in my account. Nowadays, I don’t believe I feel the pressure so much.
I have learnt to stop focusing on the small, irrelevant things I was once so concerned about. I just love sharing the journey with my horses and interacting with my followers who enjoy it! It has created such a positive space for me to post what I love.
What keeps you motivated during lockdown (2.0)?
I am super lucky to live in regional Victoria during lockdown 2.0 which means that my postcode avoided the second stage 3 lockdown! However, we usually travel to the lockdown areas to have lessons/clinics, so it has restricted us in that sense. One of my coaches also lives in regional Victoria so luckily, we have been able to continue lessons with her to keep us occupied and motivated as we work toward our goals. I also purchased a fresh OTTB mare by the name of ‘Bambi’ to educate and bring up the levels, this is also keeping me very occupied with so much to work on with her!
What advice would you tell your younger self?
I wish I could tell my younger self to stop caring so much about what other people think and to just have fun. Overthinking and over-caring held me back so much as a young person both in my personal life and even with the horses.
What is the biggest lesson riding has taught you?
Patience and perseverance! Especially when retraining off the track thoroughbreds.
When I was younger, I would easily get super frustrated and lose motivation. Since developing (a lot) in my riding, I have learnt the hard way that frustration will get me nowhere. I need to persevere and have the utmost patience to enable both horse and rider to learn and progress.
What do your horses weekly routines look like (not during Covid!)
Usually, when in competition work (even whilst I have a full-time job) each week I aim for 2-3 dressage rides, 1 jump and 1 fitness when possible.
This is the schedule I find that keeps Eli in peak performance and he really benefits from getting days off in between.
Tell us about your incredible journey with Eli?
This is definitely a long story, we have been through so much together. He is my absolute heart horse but I will try to keep it as short as possible!
I found Eli’s advertisement on Facebook back in 2016, and long story short, we were completely unaware of his condition until we got him home and saw just how bad he was once we took his rugs off for the first time. He was malnourished, skinny and weak. He didn’t have enough energy to even hold his own weight when he fell asleep.
He was a clean slate, he knew the basics (just), but I was also a very green rider. He was my first horse coming off a 13.3hh pony and Eli was a fresh 4yo OTTB. I barely even aspired to be an eventer at that point! I worked hard, received lessons here and there and honestly, just did the best with what I had and knew, and somehow that resulted in getting us to where we are today!
Although it wasn’t always that easy. In 2017 we had a big rotational fall over a ditch brush fence which resulted in a broken wrist for me, but he came out rather unscathed. It took me a few years to be able to confidently approach a fence like that again. Eli, being the absolute trooper he is, was barely affected by the rotational.
Devastatingly, he was also diagnosed with stringhalt in March of 2019, and this was truly shattering for me. We were at peak performance and loving every minute of riding. It was a long 10 months before he improved. With no known cure, my Nan and I tried absolutely everything to get him back. Luckily enough after feeding him a strict regime, then rehabbing him on the lunge line and over raised poles, he was a miracle case and made a full recovery.
The break, although under terrible circumstances was the best thing for us. We have come back better than ever and he shows no signs of ever having the string-halt. Everything that has been thrown at him, he has taken on like a trooper. He always looks after me and every time brings me home safely. I can’t wait to see where he takes me! He means the world to us and I owe my life to him.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
’Everything happens for a reason’ - it is so cliche, but so true.
Everything that has happened in my life, every disappointment, every setback, accomplishment, the good and the bad has led me to where I am today. There is still a long way to go but I am so excited to see where my horses and life takes me.
If you could compete at any competition worldwide, what would it be?
I really would love to compete at the Australian International 3 day event.
There is something so amazing about having such an incredible event on our own home soil. I have been a spectator at this event in Adelaide and the whole atmosphere gives me goosebumps.
Otherwise Internationally, I think Badminton Horse Trials would be absolutely spectacular!
Who inspires you the most?
My coaches, Penny Johnson and Nina Clarke. They are both incredibly dedicated riders and coaches. I can’t even begin to explain the improvement Eli and I have made whilst under the guidance of these amazing riders. If I was half as good as these two, my career goals would definitely be complete.
Favourite Lumiere product?
This is such a hard choice!
However, if I had to choose, my ultimate favourite is still the ‘Aria’ anatomical bridle. My horses both love the anatomical design and the uniqueness of the rose gold fittings and the premium Italian leather just tops it all off.
Amber would like to thank her fantastic sponsors for their continued support!
Lumiere, Tribe Equestrian, Click Capture Photography and HLH Equestrian Apparel