20 March 2016, USA ~ Sara Vermeersch – Congratulations on your win of the fourth leg of the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship IFAHR Cup on Royal Richess at the Sam Houston Race Park in Texas.
Although only 21 years old, Sara has ridden 28 races with 5 wins, 2 places, and 3 shows. The wins were 2 in Belgium, 1 each in France and Germany, and now one in Texas.
Racing is exhilarating. ”I really like the speed and the feeling of the power of having a horse under you. It’s not the same as going fast with your car. I really like the feeling of the wind and the sound of the galloping horse,” said Sara.
Sara lives in Lichtervelde, Belgium. She and her boyfriend have three racehorses that they train in the coastal city of Ostend. In addition to the 2km long training track they ride and train on the beach. A student in the study of nutritional sciences and dietetics, Sara’s jobs are training race horses and on weekends she follows her other career working in a restaurant kitchen.
As racing in the nearest track at Ostend is for only 2 months of the year, the other 10 months Sara travels to the Hippodrome de Wallonie at Mons, located about 33 miles southwest of Brussels and about 100 miles from Lichtervelde – a journey of about 1 1/2 hours each way.
The Houston, Texas, race was the first time Sara had ridden an Arabian in a race, although she has trained several Arabians in Holland and Belgium.
“In Belgium, only professionals can ride in the Arabian races,” she said. “We only have 15 races a year for amateur riders in Belgium, so I have to ride in the neighboring countries such as France or Germany. It’s very difficult to be known and get rides. I hope the win in Sam Houston will get me more opportunities to ride in these countries.”
Sara relates that one of her racing goals was to ride in the USA.
“My childhood dream was to win a race in America and so now I have done so thanks to the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship and all the people who have helped me to realize this amazing opportunity. I think winning the final race in Abu Dhabi would be so amazing because I never believed I might come so far getting to ride in the final.”
“One of my other racing goals is to travel all around the world to ride in different countries at big race tracks such as Longchamp (France), Baden-Baden (Germany), Santa-Anita (USA), Ascot or Newmarket (Great-Brittain), and Meydan (Dubai).
Sara relates that her parents always supported her choice to train and race horses.
“Now most of my loved ones support me in my passion but it hasn’t always been like that. In the beginning, my grandparents were the most against it. I’ve heard many times that I wasn’t aware of the dangers of horse racing”
There has been only one real problem for her on the track.
“I had some problems at the starting gate with a horse named Ooi Long. He didn’t want to go in and when he finally went in after much effort, he just crushed on through the gate and threw me off.”
“My parents always encouraged me from the beginning because they knew it was my childhood dream to become a jockey. After a while I met my boyfriend and he also supported me from the beginning because he also loves horse racing.”
Sara is looking forward to her first visit to Abu Dhabi in November for the Championship.
“If I would win the big race in November, I would be soooooooo happy. I think I’ll probably have a big party when I get home with all my friends and family. Actually, it’s all bonus. I never expected to have the opportunity to race in the USA, let alone win it and qualify for Abu Dhabi. I will enjoy these days whatever the result may be.”
Best of luck, Sara, from Horsereporter and your world of friends.