One horse competing at the LeMieux National Dressage Championships at Stoneleigh (14-17 September) this week hasn’t had a conventional journey to this level.

Mi Amigo, a 17.2hh 15-year-old, owned and ridden by Sara-Jane Lanning, didn’t start proper ridden work until he was 11.

“A lady called Zoe Viner was on a yard where I teach,” explains Sara-Jane. “She had undergone a back operation and was struggling with ‘Zoa’ as he’s so big. I watched him trot across the diagonal and immediately knew I wanted him. Two days later he was mine.”

Sara-Jane, who is a judge and trainer based in Hampshire, explains that Zoa is quite a character.

“He spent six years of his life doing what he wanted in the field and was occasionally ridden being hacked out, so he was quite opinionated. He’s big and powerful and I took a chance on him.”

But thankfully that gamble has paid off and just a year later the pair won the novice gold freestyle championships at Hartpury and also took the opportunity to compete in freestyle competition in the main arena at Royal Windsor this year. Zoa has also stepped up to prix st georges and recently won at this level on 72%.

Sara-Jane and Zoa competed in the advanced medium gold championship this week where they scored 68.16%.

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“Although Zoa is behind where he should be age-wise, I never thought we would get this far,” smiles Sara-Jane. “His stable flooded last night before we competed today and I don’t think he slept very well! But he tries really hard and hopefully we’ll aim for some premier league competitions now.”

Keep up-to-date with all of the news from the National Dressage Championships by keeping an eye on the Horse & Hound website, and don’t miss the full magazine report, out on Thursday 21 September.