For Phoebe Roche, life has had challenges, but her tenacity and courage have earned this young rider a considerable degree of success, writes AMANDA MAC.
Phoebe Roche is Grade IV FEI Para Rider. Look her up on the FEI website and you’ll find that since 2015, she’s been a successful competitor in CPEDI3* dressage events with her horses Amajah (now semi-retired), Power of Attorney (Will), and more recently Saddleup Romper Stomper (Smartie), in freestyle individual, and team events.
Originally from Brisbane, Phoebe and her mother moved to Tooradin, Victoria, where they live in a cottage on Tooradin Estate, the property of renowned equestrian Sally Francis OAM.
It was Phoebe’s late father Doug Roche who encouraged her to start riding. As a boy, an operation on his spine severed the nerves to his legs, and he later learned to ride at the McIntyre Centre, a Riding for the Disabled facility in Brisbane’s south west. When Phoebe was first diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Doug put her name on the Centre’s waiting list, where she began riding as a five-year-old. “It was a father daughter thing,” she says, “Mum was allergic to horses, so it was our time together.”
It quickly became apparent that Phoebe was a natural. A member of the McIntyre Pony Club squad, she was classified for Para by the time she was 15. Next was the McIntyre’s dressage squad, which is when Phoebe came to a life-altering decision: “I thought, well, you train for all the movements anyway and they’re the same whether you compete or not, so you might as well go out and put it all together in a test.” Which is what she did, starting first with Interschool and local club day events, before moving on to the world of international competition.
Does Phoebe have a competitive streak? She does, but she directs it towards herself, a challenge to be the best she can be. “And it’s training the horse to be the best they can be too,” she adds. “I rode in one competition where the prize was a bucket of carrots and I’d say that was the best prize I’d ever won because it was something for the horse. A ribbon’s a ribbon, and I’m not in it for the ribbon. For me, it’s to do the best by your horse. I’d happily come last in a competition if I knew I’d ridden it correctly.”
After leasing a number of horses, Phoebe eventually purchased several of her own. “It’s hard to find a good horse,” she remarks, “It’s got to be one with a brain that wants to learn and will listen to you. It’s a horse that you’re going to spend a lot of time with, so you’ve got to have a connection with them on the ground, they’ve got to have a personality.”
Among many other achievements, Phoebe was a finalist in Equestrian Australia’s 2016 Young Athlete of the Year award, and in January this year she attained a qualifying score for the Tokyo Olympics with Smartie. Of course, the qualifiers will now need to be re-run and yes, Phoebe will definitely be competing.
Finally, Phoebe, whose independence, dedication and hard work are the driving force behind her success, would like to acknowledge and thank those who’ve helped and supported her along the way: “There’s my mum Shaneen, my coach Sam Bartlett, Jess Ryan, Stephanie Eriksen, and my sponsors Kentucky Equine Research, South Eastern Equine Hospital, Hastings Produce, and Bit Bank Australia. I’d like to thank them all.”
From the entire team here at HorseVibes, congratulations on all your achievements so far, Phoebe, and we wish you every success for the future.