Four determined young showjumpers flew the flag for their county to win a prestigious team competition.
The “Kent Mini Marvels” made up of Kent Junior Academy riders Alfie Bailey, Scarlett Braidford, Olivia Lewington and Tayli Rae Owen won the mini teams 70cm final at the British Showjumping Academy Championships at Stoneleigh on 11 August.
All four riders produced clear rounds across both days of the team competition featuring more than 150 starters. Olivia was fourth individually on My Blue Eyed Boy, Scarlett was 10th individually on Ivoryheights Tuxcedo, Alfie was 13th on Buddy II and Tayli Rae Owen was 14th on Rockbury Faccination.
Kent Academy chef d’equipe and coach Katy Ford said she is “very proud” of the young riders.
“The mini team work so hard, they’re always training and wanting to improve – and they are so competitive. They are such great characters too, all four of them are really nice, polite children,” she said.
“They work so well as a team; Alfie is the youngest aged eight, and the oldest is Scarlett aged 12. They’re always encouraging each other on and off their ponies. They just really want it.”
Kate said the mini team has had a great season, winning almost all of their competitions. The children train as a team monthly and will compete again next month in Somerset.
“It’s not always the same riders, but they all work so well together. And they are all very dignified – they know that sometimes they’re going to have bad days, and they know to enjoy the good days. They take it on the chin and learn their lessons,” she said.
“From a coach’s perspective, to see that progress, hard work, and competitive spirit is brilliant – and they totally love their ponies, everything they do is for their ponies. And that’s how it should be, you’ve got to love the pony first and I really believe all of them do.”
Alfie’s mum Annie Bailey told H&H her son started riding at a young age, getting his first pony for Christmas at six months old, and is a very determined rider.
“He was drawn first to go for the team and he knew it was important for him to go clear so he had all that pressure, but he loves it,” she said, adding that Alfie had to collect his rosette on his other pony Tilly, as 23-year-old Buddy finds laps of honour a bit “too exciting”.
“Next year Alfie hopes to take his ponies back to the national championships and aim for the stepping stones and bronze league finals, and do some more team competitions. He also wants to do the mini major qualifiers, and after that he has aspirations to jump the 128cm Horse of the Year Show qualifiers, but at the moment I don’t know if my nerves can take that!”
You might also be interested in:
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.