When H&H visited England striker Michael Owen’s Cheshire racing yard, Manor House Stables, back in 2014, our key focus was his top class string of racehorses, including his Royal Ascot-winning superstar Brown Panther.
But as we chatted with the former footballer that day, we naturally drifted on to the subject of his eldest daughter, pony-mad Gemma Owen – then just 11 years old – who was already showing a keen interest in dressage.
Gemma Owen: Love Island contestant
Gemma Owen has been making headlines for the past eight weeks on ITV’s Love Island, reaching tonight’s (Monday, 1 August) final after finding love in the villa with fellow contestant Luca Bish. But she’d previously been better known – to H&H readers at least – as a rising star on the dressage circuit.
Gemma’s mother Louise, who made an appearance on Love Island in Sunday night’s penultimate episode, was also a keen dressage rider and Gemma, who got her first pony at the age of two, was taking the pony dressage world by storm when H&H visited eight years ago. Gemma had already represented Wales and qualified for the medium restricted summer regionals of 2014.
Louise, who broke her hip, her back in two places and her pelvis in five places in a fall, said of her future dressage star at that time: “I think you have to be the right type of person for dressage. It’s very technical and the more you get into it, the more you realise how technical it is. You have to do your homework, be patient and have attention to detail. She’s really taken to it and it’s very exciting.”
Michael Owen has since taken to the saddle himself, finishing second in his debut charity race at Ascot, but when asked if he enjoyed watching hours of dressage on days when Gemma was competing, Michael said: “I would if I had time – I have to work to pay for it!”
Gemma Owen: ‘She’s dead ambitious’ says proud mum
But looking to the future, Gemma Owen’s proud mum said back in 2014: “She’s dead ambitious. She has her sights set on riding for Great Britain – that’s her goal.”
Well, that prediction did indeed come true. Soon after, Gemma began forging a tremendous career with Der Kleine Lord in international pony classes and went on to represent Great Britain at the 2021 junior European Championships with her own 17-year-old gelding Sirius Black. The team finished a very creditable sixth.
She has competed up to inter I level on the national circuit and scored a personal best of 73.53% at prix st georges (PSG) earlier this year.
Gemma was competing right up until March, shortly before it was announced that she would be entering the Love Island villa. She was one of the original 11 hopefuls when joining the ITV show and the youngest of the group at just 19.
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