The first Australian, and second woman, to win the gruelling Mongolia Derby, Sam Jones, is now top of the world equestrian endurance rankings. But for the West Australian who was virtually born on a horse, it’s not about winning races.

Story Jill Griffiths  Photo Richard Dunwoody 

Growing up on a farm in Badgingarra, WA, with a father who contracted to the sheep industry and a mother who ran a riding school, it was perhaps inevitable that Sam Jones would spend her life among animals, especially horses.

“It wasn’t so much that I learnt to ride at a young age, it was more that I was basically born riding and just never stopped,” Sam says. Sam’s mother is a rider and rode right through her pregnancy with Sam and, after Sam was born, it didn’t take long before she was back riding, taking her baby daughter with her. “There were always ponies and horses around and I was always riding,” Sam says. “I always wanted to ride as many horses as I could.”

As a child at pony club, when one of the other kids was bucked off or had a pony behaving badly, Sam would be yelling, “I’ll get on it. I’ll ride it”. But the pony that made a rider of her was her own, a wild little grey called Pixi.

“She was way too much for me at first,” Sam says. “She was a bucker and a rearer. We made up names for her many moves – the ‘fish-wriggle buck’, the ‘sun salute’. Then I got Chantelle. I bought her cheap because she had issues, but she made a horse trainer of me. And she gave me a foal – Baz. He was my one-in-a-million horse. He could do anything and we did everything together – he was winning at open campdrafts, hacking and one-star eventing in the same year. In 10 years of competing at the Australian Stock Horse State Championships, he never came home without at least one championship sash.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #119

Outback Magazine: June/July 2018