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14 facts you need to know about Pau winner Laura Collett

Britain’s Laura Collett, eventing star, won her first five-star title last weekend at the French showcase event at Pau. But how well do you know your Laura Collett facts? Here are the gems you need at your fingertips to impress your friends…

1. Laura started her competitive career in the show ring and won the supreme pony title at Horse of the Year Show in 2003 on Welsh Section A Penwayn Ryan.

2. She won the first international event she ever contested in eventing, the junior CCI* (now CCI2*-L) at Weston Park in 2004, riding Walnut. The pair finished on their dressage score of 44.4. The event was long format — with roads and tracks and steeplechase — so she “scraped in” on having this experience before it was phased out of the sport.

3. She was in the Heythrop branch of the Pony Club and was a team and individual winner at the Pony Club Championships two years in a row on Walnut.

4. When she was offered the ride on the Luceys’ brilliant small horse Walnut – already a legend in the Heythrop branch, with a waiting list of riders desperate to take him on – the Colletts tried to refuse because they couldn’t afford to run a horse they couldn’t sell. Mandy Lucey, who trained Laura, told them to scrape together the pennies somehow and the experience he gave her was incomparable.

5. She bought her FEI eventing pony Noble Springbok, “a freak of nature and one in a million”, after seeing him advertised in a job lot in Horse & Hound. Laura and her mother Tracey beat Ben Hobday to buying the pony by a matter of hours.

6. When she won the CCI2* at Tweseldown in 2006, she was just 16 and the youngest winner of a senior two-star.

7. In 2008, she was listed for the young rider Europeans on Fernhill Sox, but when she was at final training, it turned out he wasn’t qualified for the championship, having missed some runs through injury. It was the only year from 2005 to 2011 that she missed out on her respective age European championship.

8. She won nine medals across pony, junior and young rider competition, including three individual golds (junior in 2006 on Noble Springbok and 2007 on Rayef, young rider in 2008 on Rayef).

9. Her first senior championship call-up came when she was just 21, the year after she left young riders. She was the youngest eventer to make a senior squad in more than two decades. She was selected as an individual for the European Eventing Championships at Luhmühlen Horse Trials with Rayef, but the horse was below par and ended up being eliminated across country.

10. Luhmühlen has been the site of both highs and lows for Laura. She went to a second Europeans there in 2019 on London 52, but fell across country having held individual bronze following the dressage. But on the plus side, she finished second in the five-star there in 2018 on Mr Bass.

11. She had a serious fall at Tweseldown in July 2013, spent several days in an induced coma and suffered severe damage to her right eye, as well as a fractured shoulder, punctured lung, lascerated liver and two broken ribs. But she fought back to return to eventing just seven weeks later when her suspension expired. Laura says she is lucky that she didn’t remember anything from that day so she never suffered a loss of confidence or doubts about continuing her chosen career. Rayef was the first horse she rode when she returned from hospital.

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12. Laura’s best senior championship result is 13th at Blair Castle Horse Trials in 2015 on Grand Manoeuvre.

13. Laura turned 30 on cross-country day at the 2019 European Championships at Luhmühlen and shares her birthday with fellow squad member Tina Cook. Sadly, both had a birthday to forget when Laura fell and Tina had a run-out on Billy The Red.

14. She is the second British rider to ride at Europeans at all four levels — pony, junior, young rider and senior. Kitty King was the first.

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