The 7 young British riders who make up Equestrian Team GB are feeling positive as they prepare for the Australia Youth Olympic Festival.

In total over 1,600 athletes from 25 nations — including more than 100 from Britain — will take part in the biennual festival, which was set up by the Australian Olympic Committee as part of the legacy of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

2009 will be will be the first year that equestrianism has been included in the event, which runs from 14-18 January.

The team travelled to Sydney last Friday (9 January) and were yesterday (13 January) introduced to the horses they will be competing on.

The dressage and show jumping competitions run from Friday (16 January) to Sunday (18 January) so the team only has a couple of days to bond with their new partners.

Usually in international competition riders will bring their own horses, but AYOF’s rules state competitions must ride locally sourced horses.

The team watched the horses with their own riders over the weekend before being matched with them — based on size and weight.

For show jumping Daniel Neilson, Matthew Sampson, Louise Saywell and William Whitaker will be representing Great Britain.

“I just rode my horse and I was happy with him. I didn’t do too much with him as the ground is hard and it’s hot out here. I’ll do a bit more tomorrow,” said 19-year-old William Whitaker yesterday.

“We know a little bit about the competition but I think it’s going to be a pretty even field as we’re all on foreign horses.”

Eighteen-year-old Daniel Nielson added: “It’s always difficult adapting to new horses. They got pretty tired in the heat so it’s hard to tell how fit they are but we’ll learn more tomorrow I’m sure.

“For the team I’ve got high hopes, we’ve got some strong riders in the squad so we should be up there in the medals.”

The dressage team consists of 19-year-olds Emily Cousins, Jessica Dunn and Charlie Hutton.

They, too, are positive about their horses and their chances.

Jessica said: “I’ve had a look at my rivals and I think the Australians will be our main competition. We can only focus on doing our best. We’ve all had a good ride this afternoon and I was pleased with the way my horse went.”

Charlie added: “Equestrian is the only Olympic sport where men and women compete equally, it’s fun being the only male rider on the team. The horse is very nice and I’m lucky to have it. I’ve acclimatised well and got used to the heat already.”

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