A Hastings-raised teenage mounted games champion hopes to continue dominating the sport, despite the cancellation of multiple events worldwide - all atop her namesake pony.
Sophie Daly was crowned New Zealand Mounted Games Association Under-17 Individual champion in Canterbury last month aboard her 17-year-old mare – Sophie.
The 16-year-old was recently selected in the NZ open age group nation's team to compete in Kentucky in September and planned a trip to Scotland to compete in the age group world championships.
Despite both events getting cancelled following the outbreak of Covid-19, and with Daly's dream of competing at America's biggest horse show, Equitana, gone for now, her spirits remain high.
Daly says her goal remains the same - to take on the national age group championship trio.
"My aims for the rest of season are to take out the under -17 pair's title at Horse of the Year again and win the under-17 teams title," she said.
Daly hopes 2021 will allow her to travel and compete in the New Zealand world's team, opens worlds team and nation's team in Scotland and the US.
The Hastings Girls High School student won her most recent title even with concerns over her ponies' fitness levels.
Because of Covid-19, the individual national championships were moved from Easter weekend in Waikato to Labour Weekend in Canterbury.
Daly's mother, Sharon, said the move meant that there was only a small timeframe to prepare.
"The season started in late August – there wasn't a huge amount of preparation in terms of fitness and getting the ponies ready – having a national championship so early in the season was challenging."
Sophie and her mother also had to ensure her ponies were in good enough condition to travel to Christchurch.
"Getting the ponies back in shape is probably one of the harder parts of the season. I turn them out for the winter so they get a break and a good chance to rest," Daly said.
Sophie is also the current under-17 New Zealand pairs champion, alongside Riley Mason, and has won all age group pairs titles from the time she started riding.
Daly, who is currently studying for her NCEA exams, said sacrificing her weekends and social life to play the sport is worth it.
"I'm competing most of the time but it pays off in the end when you're rewarded with your skills by being able to make New Zealand teams and travel the world."
Sharon said she admires her daughter's commitment to her passion.
"The sport is not like motorbike riding or playing rugby or netball where you're responsible for just your own fitness.
"With horse riding you have to ensure that your best friend is as fit and in the best condition as you are - and that takes a considerable amount of commitment and time."
Daly said the adrenaline rush the sport provides, especially in finals, keeps her going.
"It's such an interesting sport to watch as it's so different from all the other equestrian disciplines."