Fiona started riding, aged seven, at a local riding school. She was given her cousin’s naughty 11.2hh Welsh pony to ride not long after. Fiona’s mum, Penny, was having weekly riding lessons from Marion Larrigan and eventually persuaded her to break her rule of not teaching children. “Mum just nagged her endlessly. Marion is an amazing teacher and I can never repay her for what she did for me. She made dressage fun, so you didn’t want to walk away from horses at 16 as so many riders do,” says Fiona, who has always concentrated on dressage because of Marion. “It used to take an hour to travel from home in Kent to Surrey and on the way back in the car, we used to have dinner and do my homework.”
At the age of eight, Fiona began riding in Keston on her naughty cousins pony, Rupert. Her mother then got in contact with dressage trainer, Marion Larrigan and she agreed to help the Bigwood's and their horses. At 10 years old, Fiona was very lucky to be given the opportunity of having Tanya Larrigans old Grand Prix horse Salute on lease. This was the start of Fiona's dressage career.
“I was lucky that Salute was being retired that year. It was such a good way to learn piaffe and passage by just playing,” she says. When Fiona was 19, she moved to Denmark to train with Hasse Hoffmann for three years. “It was a completely different side of life. I went from looking after and riding my three horses at home to a big dealer’s yard,” she says. Then Fiona moved down to Germany to train with Jan Bemelmans followed by Dieter Laugks.
Fiona was a member of the British team at the 1993 Junior European Championships and the Young Rider European Championships from 1994 to 1996, both times with Pablo Picasso.
In 1996, 21 year old Fiona was the youngest British rider ever to be selected for a Senior European Championships with Dance & Fly. That year, she also took the British National Elementary title with Afrikka. Fiona was shortlisted for the 1998 World Equestrian Games with Dance & Fly and Macho and, in the same year, was ranked number one in the British Puffa International Rider Rankings.
She ended up buying her own yard in 1998 with 54 boxes, which she ran until recently with her partner, leading Danish dressage rider, Anders Dahl. The couple moved back to West Sussex in early 2009 with their two children and now reside at their home, Bourne Hill Dressage.
In 1999 and 2005, she was a member of the European Championship team. In 2009, Fiona performed well with Wie Atlantico, winning two Grand Prix classes, one with 70.21%. She also achieved great results with Don Lorean winning the Hickstead Premier League Freestyle Grand Prix with 71.08%.
On 26 April 2014, Fiona fell off a horse in a freak accident at a local show and sustained major concussion to her head. After four days in the hospital, she was able to return home but her life had changed dramatically. The accident left her vision seriously impaired as an eye nerve got damaged. One year later she still has double vision and has to ride with an eye patch.
Fiona helped Team GBR win a silver medal at the 2015 European Dressage Championships in Aachen riding Penny Bigwood’s Atterupgaards Orthilia. Although they qualified to go forwards to the Grand Prix Special, unfortunately the mare developed an extreme sensitivity across her back after doing her team test in pouring rain, which prevented her from contesting the individual competition. In 2016, Fiona and Atterupgaards Orthilia were selected to represent Great Britain at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; an incredible achievement.
Family is the most important thing in Fiona's life and she is very grateful to have so many wonderful people in her closest circle, who she can always depend on. She also feels incredibly indebted to the invaluable team who take care of the horses at Bourne Hill. www.bournehilldressage.com