Festive stars: the young dressage rider who has emerged smiling from a turbulent year

  • Dressage rider Maddy Frewin, 18, had a tough time in 2021. But rounding off the year with a win in the young rider individual at the Keysoe High Profile Show in December was the perfect way to put the past few months behind her and prepare to start 2022 on a high.

    Despite the delay due to lockdown, Maddy’s first year in young riders got off to a good start when she was selected to ride at the Wellington CDI in May, with her then top horse Woodlander Rhythm N Blues, with whom she had enjoyed much success on the international junior circuit. But disaster struck in April when she broke her leg in a fall from a young horse.

    “That’s horses for you!” says Maddy, who experienced her first trip in an ambulance as a result. “I was really lucky though to have people around me to help.

    “Originally I was told it would be eight weeks in a cast and maybe an operation, but luckily I was able to get back on after three weeks – the aim was to make it to Wellington.”

    And make it to Wellington she did – with her leg strapped up in a tail bandage and wearing an ankle support, Maddy made her international young riders debut with “RnB” at Wellington, and scored a personal best for third in the individual.

    “Coming back and being able to fight for that was a big highlight – I’m so grateful I was able to,” says Maddy, who credits the 14-year-old Woodlander Rockstar son as being “so correct”.

    “I’ve learned that if you aim to get a seven for everything, you can get 70%. You don’t need a flashy horse to get a seven – you need a correct horse.”

    Maddy achieved a huge goal when she was selected to ride for Britain at the young rider European Championships in July – her fourth youth Europeans, but first at this level. However, once more fate played a cruel hand.

    “RnB had a fitness assessment before the Euros and unfortunately it turned out he had an injury,” said Maddy, who was forced to withdraw.

    “This has been such a rollercoaster year with big ups and big downs – but it’s been a very good year for learning things. I’ve found if you can work through the hurdles, you can come out stronger.”

    Maddy Frewin: ‘Dressage stuck but I still love jumping’

    Maddy started her riding career in the Pony Club, riding a “naughty” 11.2hh roan pony.

    “One day we did a dressage competition and I don’t know how but we won, and I won a set of bandages. I thought, ‘This is quite good’,” laughs Maddy.

    “Dressage stuck, but I love my jumping too. All my horses jump now – I think it’s fun and they get to relax and do something different and work different muscles. I don’t think I would want to do circles seven days a week!

    “Over the years we had a few ponies that I produced. We couldn’t go out and buy ready-made ponies, but there were a lot of learning curves as I had to go through it at a young age, so now I’m pretty used to having a project and seeing it out.”

    Aged 16, Maddy left school and did an apprenticeship with Haddon Training. She also opted to change her surname, dropping her father’s surname Whelan and taking on her mother’s name Frewin with which to embark on her professional dressage career.

    “I wanted to change my name sooner rather than later,” said Maddy. “I’m definitely sticking with horses long-term now; we made the decision just before lockdown to find a yard I could base myself at, so now I rent 10 stables and I have some fab owners and some schooling liveries.”

    She is also excited about next year’s prospects with her new ride Blue Hors Dexter, owned by Mark Philpott and Nigel Sibley, and she has so far enjoyed a brilliant start to her partnership with the 14-year-old Don Schufro stallion, with High Profile show wins at both young rider level and prix st georges.

    “He is a really exciting horse, and the main aim for him is the young rider Europeans. Then I’d like to reassess and see if I can do under-25 grand prix with him. He is a fabulous horse to learn from so I’m really trying to take the opportunity and see how far we can go,” says Maddy.

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