Team GB welcomes a new recruit as young rider Emily Moffitt makes her senior Nations Cup team debut next month (3 March).

The 18-year-old California-born US rider, who trains with Ben Maher, has dual citizenship but swapped the Stars and Stripes for the Union flag last month and has the 2020 Olympics firmly in her sights.

She is currently based in Wellington, Florida, for the 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), which will host the $150,000 FEI Nations Cup, where she will line up alongside British riders Ben Maher (Cliff 67), Sam Hutton (Happydam), Jessica Mendoza (Toy Boy) and Amanda Derbyshire (Sibell BH or Luibanta BH).

“I wasn’t getting very many opportunities for any American teams,” said Emily, who heard the British national anthem play for the first time on Sunday (12 February) when she landed the $50,000 CSI2* grand prix riding For Sale 6 (pictured).

“My goal has always been the 2020 Olympics and my dad and I have been working towards that, but I just felt I wasn’t moving forward and I said we needed to change something.

“My dad is British but my mum is American and she was against the idea,” Emily told H&H. “But I’m based in England and I feel more English so, after I persuaded my mum, we had a meeting with [British chef d’equipe] Di Lampard about it. I really liked the feeling of team spirit I got and already Jess Mendoza has become one of my closest friends — she’ll help me and I’ll watch her go, too.”

But Emily’s British team debut has come sooner than she dreamed.

“Literally as soon as I switched nationalities at new year, I found out I was on the Nations Cup team — I certainly wasn’t expecting that!” said Emily. “I’ve just had my British jacket fitted and that was a great moment.”

Emily’s Nations Cup ride will be her top horse, the 10-year-old Hilfiger Van De Olmenhoeve — known at home as Tommy.

“He wasn’t originally going to be my top horse when he came to me, more like a 1.45m horse,” said Emily. “And actually I didn’t really like him for the first couple of months — he used to spin round and I fell off him so much. But I started going and just sitting in his stall, almost forcing him to love me, and it turned everything around. I started asking him more and he kept improving.

“In Estoril last year for the Global Champions League, the course was just massive and Tommy does this thing that he whinnies then tries to spin before he jumps clear. He did that in Estoril and sure enough he jumped double clear. It felt like such a big accomplishment.”

Emily does not come from horsey parents but she began with pony rides and pony camp, and a grandfather with a keen interest in horses was her inspiration. She trained with Nick Skelton and Laura Kraut before joining the yard of Olympic gold medallist Ben Maher nearly a year ago.

“Even just three years ago I only had two horses,” said Emily. “After I trained with Nick and Laura it was time for a change and I just had a feeling that Ben Maher would be perfect for me. The way he explains thing, it just clicks.”

She now has a formidable top string of horses with Ben riding the younger ones. Her recent grand prix winner For Sale 6 is an 11-year-old Westphalian mare (For Pleasure x Cassini I) previously ridden by Ludger Beerbaum and produced by his stable jockey Henrik Von Eckermann. She also has the former Mark Armstrong ride Zagahorn (Matterhorn x Wolfgang) and the nine-year-old Don Vito, who came from Sergio Alvarez Moya.

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Emily made her five-star competition debut last year and she is no stranger to team competition, having represented USA in the junior Nations Cup at WEF, and competed as part of team Valkenswaard United on the Global Champions League. She joins Ben Maher as part of the London Knights squad in this year’s series.

Find out how the British team gets on in Florida in the 8th March issue of Horse & Hound.