Competitors at this year’s Pony Club Championships will be helped to perform at their best by a crack team of world-class mentors.

Leading riders, including Jeanette Brakewell and Maria Eilberg, will be on hand to provide a sounding board, advice and sports psychology.

The scheme was developed by Olympic pentathlete Kate Allenby, who won bronze at the Sydney Games in 2000. She has run a pilot mentoring programme in tetrathlon since 2010 and is rolling it out across eventing, dressage and showjumping this year.

“I’m a PE teacher and see children being asked to perform younger and younger,” Kate told H&H.

“That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but this is about giving them the skills to deal with the pressures of delivering at this age; how to manage yourself when you arrive at the start line, or when things go wrong,” she added.

The mentors will be present at the Pony Club Championships at Cholmondeley Castle, Cheshire (16-19 August), and the tetrathlon championships at Bishop Burton, East Yorks (9-11 August), to support athletes with any worries and to talk about performance psychology.

Hattie Algar, 18, a member of the Cambridgeshire Hunt branch of the Pony Club, has been mentored by Kate for the past two years. She came 10th in the open girls’ class at last year’s tetrathlon championships.

“Because Kate has done it herself, she totally appreciates the pressures you are under,” said Hattie.

“She’s good at talking you through it and giving you little tactics and techniques to calm your nerves, like breathing techniques before the shoot,” she added.

Maria Eilberg, a former winner of the Pony Club dressage championships, told H&H she was looking forward to “giving something back”.

“We’ve seen how it’s [sports psychology] helped the top squads.

“Sometimes, just by talking things through, you can get your mindset in the right place for competing,” she added.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (11 July, 2013 issue)