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Festive stars: Leilia Paske — ‘To win two medals was a dream come true’

Over this festive season, we are shining a light on up-and-coming talent across the equestrian disciplines. These are riders you really need to keep an eye out for during the 2020 season...

Not many riders manage to win two medals on a horse they have been riding less than a year, but that’s exactly what Leilia Paske achieved when she took double silver at the 2019 junior eventing European Championships on Billy McFee.

“We bought Fee in November 2018 as just a project,” explains Leilia. “Although I was careful to compete at a gentle pace to start with, she exceeded all our expectations by winning individual and team at the Europeans in July. It was a dream come true and an unbelievable experience that I shall not forget in a long time.”

She adds: “Despite being a little shy, Fee is amazing to ride as she always gives her all and is incredibly quick on her feet. She can be quite cunning at home and you have to watch her carefully, as she is prone to untying herself and going for a walk.”

Billy McFee belongs to Leilia’s siblings through The Paske Syndicate, who also own a young horse who she will bring on next season. Her brother, Freddy Paske, is an equine artist and the rider likes to spend time supporting him when she can, as well as describing family holidays as a “yearly highlight”.

Leilia is based at home in rural Suffolk and says her parents Tim and Georgie are her “key supporters”.

With a self-contained yard 20 yards from the back door, it makes the morning commute just bearable,” she jokes.

Leilia is currently enjoying a gap year before taking up a place to study history at Newcastle in September. This has included riding out for a local point-to-point yard and some time travelling in the USA.

“I spent a very cold month in Chicago doing some work in insurance,” she explains. “I then travelled south to Florida to spend time with Lauren Kieffer, to gain insight into how eventing in the US differs and learn some alternative ways of training and educating horses.”

Leilia will then spend the rest of her gap year focusing on eventing full-time. As well as Billy McFee, she has Fernhill First Friend (“Yam”) to ride, with whom as she achieved her first international win in the CCIY2*-L at Frickley last July.

Leilia says: “We’ve had him for three and half years. He’s a much-loved character not just at home but also on the circuit — he considers himself almost human.”

Of her plans for next year, the 18-year-old says: I would love to try for young riders and I am thrilled to have been selected for the BE youth performance development squad for 2020. I would like to get another international win under my belt.”

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Beyond her family, Leilia credits “amazing support from Rachel Read of Rossdales, farrier Rob Shave and groom Alison James. 

I am also lucky to have three outstanding trainers in Caroline Powell, Judy Harvey and Brigit Ensten — all very different in their approach but the combination is awesome,” she says. 

Leilia says her greatest ambition in eventing is to go around Burghley as it has been her favourite event for spectating since she she was a child.

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