“If someone had told me a year ago we would be competing here I would have said they were crazy,” laughs Hayley Dolby, who is competing at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships.

Hayley, a self-employed IT trainer from Hertfordshire, first visited this show 12 months ago.

“I won a competition with Petplan to come and have a look round the championships, and I never in a million years thought I would ever be fortunate enough to compete here,” says Hayley, who actually finished a highly creditable sixth in the Baileys Horse Feeds novice freestyle silver class with her Welsh section D, Pendancer Mickey Bricks, with 71.02%.

Hayley bought ‘Mickey’ when he was four months old.

“My friend likes breeding Welsh horses and bought a mare from a sale,” explains Hayley. “A few weeks later she went out in the morning and thought it was odd that somebody had already put hay out, but on closer inspection she realised it was a foal lying down — that was Mickey and he was a total accident.”

Hayley took him home as a weanling and had hoped that he would eventually suit her daughter, but his big character meant that this wasn’t to be the case.

“He’s into everything and would have been too much for Lola.”

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Mickey, who stands at just 13.3hh, is now nine and he has proved to be a fantastic pony for Hayley, whose first love is showing.

“We’ve done everything from TREC to showjumping and quadrille,” she says. “My dream is to qualify him for the Horse of the Year Show Mountain & Moorland 143cm working hunter pony championship. I’m a bit in denial about dressage as I’m not completely into it — I refuse to buy a dressage saddle so compete in my showing saddle instead!”

For a full report from the British Dressage Winter Championships and Area Festival final – as well as news, views and expert comment – don’t miss Thursday’s (19 April 2018) issue of Horse & Hound