WORK YOUR WAY: ‘Horses are good for the soul’
Riding over the Yorkshire moors is a better way to solve work challenges than sitting behind a computer, says Sophie Colloby. She currently has four horses including a rare breed Dales pony.
What do you love most about horses?
Horses are good for the soul – riding and being around them is a great way to relax. At the end of the day I walk out of the back door, saddle up and I’m straight onto the moors. We live on a smallholding looking out over the Aire valley towards Ilkley Moor, one of the most beautiful areas of Yorkshire.
Your head may be buzzing from the day, but the horses can tell if you’re not concentrating so you have to clear your mind. If I’m working on a complex or challenging deal, I find it more effective to get out in the fresh air than to keep slogging at a computer for hours. I have done some of my most creative thinking on the back of a horse.
When did you start riding?
I got my first pony when I was 14 and I worked on a stud farm at weekends to help fund the upkeep. We weren’t a ‘horsey’ family and my parents thought it was a phase. Apart from three years at university, I’ve had horses ever since – sometimes six at a time, though some of those were old or injured horses I was looking after for friends or fostering for a charity.
Tell us about your current horses
I have four now. Billy is retired due to a long-term injury. Ted is the one I ride currently – he is only six so this will be his first year of competition. Ingwe is four and will be trained to ride this year.
However I am really looking forward to riding Leo, who is a pure-bred Dales pony. He is only two and as Dales are slow maturing, it will be another three years before I can ride him. Dales ponies are clever and amenable, but they are also an endangered species. I’d like to start competing with Leo as if others can see what they are capable of, more people will consider owning them which could secure their future.
How do you fit them around your work life?
I spent almost 20 years working long hours in big accountancy firms.. One of the most difficult times was after we moved to Yorkshire in 2014. My children were very young and I worked away two or three weeks every month so had to leave them at home with my husband. Now they are older they really enjoy having us both around.
Fortunately Dow Schofield Watts, which I joined in 2017, operates a different model – I am a co-owner of my part of the business so I am my own boss. I still work hard and handle many high-profile deals but it gives me better balance, so I can make time for the family and the horses.
What have you learned from the experience?
With horses, you have to be patient. They are your team but you can’t rush them or make them do anything, it’s all about negotiation – similar to being at work! Riding is a lovely way to see the world. I’ve ridden in Australia and the US and worked on horseback safaris in South Africa! One of the best things about it is that unlike some sports, age is no barrier to ability. I look forward to competing for many years to come.