Where it all started...
Most riders you read about will have probably been riding since before they can remember, since before the could walk even. I, on the other hand, despite my Mam having horses and being around them all of my life, didn’t show an interest until around the age of 9! A late starter in the grand scheme of things ... so you'd probably expect me to remember my first time off lead rein, first time trotting, cantering etc... but to be honest mostly its all a blur, although I do have a vague memory of scrambling onto a shetland pony in a small paddock and basically throwing myself straight over the other side!
I eventually began riding lessons at our local riding school and took quite a liking to it all, so much so apparently, that I made my mam take me two hours early each time - making up for lost time perhaps? From then on, I fell in love with horses...and muck...and the cold... and everything that comes along with the ‘horse rider’ status.
I was then approached by the owner of the livery yard my mam kept her horses on and given the opportunity to ride a pony (Buttons) she had in for sale, a mutually beneficial agreement so I was told! I would have a pony to ride and learn on and Buttons would be fitter and, therefore, able to go out competing and then hopefully sell. We got on like a house on fire, little side-kicks in fact! I was devastated at the thought of her being sold but the time did eventually come...25.12.2000 a date embedded in my brain. And so it was - presents opened, Christmas dinner in the oven and time to go and ‘sort the horses out’.
I ran straight to Buttons to give her Christmas carrot, only to be greeted by a tinsel and sticker-covered stable (edible tinsel apparently!). Buttons had been sold... ‘Someone must have bought her, someone must be a very lucky little girl,’ I remember my parents saying... and the penny dropped, she was mine! Buttons was the best Christmas present any child could ask for! Apparently she had been mine from day one but I had to prove that I was responsible enough to look after her, and it would be less heartache all around if I didn’t and she was then sold on.
The ball was rolling, Buttons and I competed in pretty much anything we could! All of the pony club teams including mounted games, triathlon, show jumping and we even tried the ‘boring dressage’ stuff. I LOVED to jump and Buttons was a little jumping machine; although we gave the dressage a go, the only time we ever did leg-yield was when we made a hasty exit from the arena at ‘A’ followed by a speedy entrance back in again! She was comedy, a legend!
The hunt began for a second pony when I had outgrown ‘Butts’. We searched high and low for the perfect second pony but to cut a long story short I had a very bad accident trying out a pony which caused me to loose my confidence and stop riding for a few months. Eventually, I found my confidence again and got back on Butts. Then I was approached by rider and trainer Muriel Allen about a pony I had admired for years, known as Andy Pandy. Andy was a well known pony in our area, a great schoolmaster and true gent, the perfect horse to build my confidence and although he jumped, he preferred to keep all for legs on the ground and had a great talent for dressage. That is when I got the bug!
From then on, I started taking the ‘boring dressage stuff’ more seriously. At the age of 13 we found my first pure dressage pony Caesar 171. Despite only being 13.3hh Caesar is like a little horse, such a power pack! Caesar and I had successful years together. We were selected for our first international at County Wicklow in Ireland in 2006, where we were part of the winning pony team. We were Regional Talent Spotting Champions and 2nd in the Talent Spotting final in 2006. Caesar catapulted my competition career from Novice to Medium level in no time. He also did everything up to Grand Prix (although that was very excitable for him!) so he taught me a lot!
2008 was the year that I left school, I knew straight away that the college and the university route wasn't for me. So I looked at my options and decided that I wanted to do a British Dressage Apprenticeship with my coaches Hannah and Becky Moody. A big decision, as it meant I had to move away from home at the age of 16. By this point ,I had outgrown Caesar and he retired to stud at our home Leamside Equestrian, and what a sire he has proved to be. We have had many potential FEI ponies by him that I aim to back and produce and really make a contribution to British breeding!
When I moved to the Moody sisters, their horse Kwadraat was coming up for lease and it was agreed between my parents, Hannah, Becky and I that this would be the perfect opportunity for me - and it was the best thing I could have done! A few weeks of getting to know each other (three, I think), we attended the GB Junior Squad viewing day and we were selected for the GB Junior Prime squad. Little did I know this would bring me the most amazing few years and a successful international career. We did our first international together in April 2009 at Hickstead nd were Junior Team, Individual and Freestyle Champions, where my first National Anthem was played. What an awesome feeling!
We were then selected to be a Junior European Team member at Ermelo, Holland, where we were the best British combination. I was the first person to be awarded the ‘Trendall Trophy’ and another award for the most improved Young Rider of the season. To say 2009 was an amazing year would be an understatement. I ended my season at the U25′s Championships with Kwad and we brought home three titles – Junior, Young Rider and Advanced Medium Champions. The most phenomenal and most memorable year ever!
In 2010, Kwad and I were selected for the Junior European Team again in Kronberg, Germany. Another amazing experience although unfortunately Kwad and I didn't have the smoothest of rides and Kwad went lame in our team test and was unable to compete for the rest of the competition. Not what I expected! This meant we couldn't attend the National Championships we had qualified for. It was a tough time but it happens to the best and made me more grateful for the achievements we had had and the knowledge and experience I had gained from everything that we went through together.
2011 was the year I qualified as a British Dressage Assistant Stable Manager. As I didn't have a horse to ride and compete, I brought our homebred pony stallion LE Chiffre to the Moody’s to back and produce. I also looked into further ways to continue my career as a horsewoman. and became a part of the British Young Breeders scheme, which led me to be a part of the first team to compete at the World Young Breeders Championships in Lyon, France. An amazing experience with a different emphasis in the riding. It gave me further all-round knowledge and experience working with the top studs and breeding experts in the country. In Lyon, I was Best British Junior!
In 2012 I gained my UCKK Level 2 certificate and focused on bringing on and backing the youngsters we had bred from my pony stallion Casesar. LE Chiffre has been very successful so far being awarded the ‘Best British Bred’ foal of 2007. He qualified for the National Championships at Elementary open level with my coach Becky Moody at the age of 5, being the only pony in the class! He then went on to be National 5 yr old Pony Champion with me. We found a pony rider to take him onto the circuit, after that, Chloe Vell, who had a super-successful time with him and took him to his first international representing GB at Hickstead where he came 3rd and achieved his ELITE status!