Festive stars: ‘I’m aiming for the top – someone has to win Olympic gold after all’

  • Ruby Hughes’ parents may be the European dressage medallist and Olympic alternate Gareth, and grand prix rider Rebecca, but it’s Ruby’s own dedication and skill as a rider that has helped her become one of Britain’s most exciting upcoming talents.

    This year, her first competing in international dressage, she was the highest placed British rider at the pony European Championships riding Hilkens Showgirl, and has already stepped up to juniors with the 12-year-old Goodtimes gelding Extra Time, the former ride of under-25 grand prix rider Lucy Amy. She rounded off 2021 by being named young rider of the year at the Horse & Hound Awards, a few days before turning 14.

    But Ruby’s life hasn’t always been dominated by dressage – she has spent several years vaulting for Britain, and only took up dressage seriously during the past couple of years.

    “I did a few dressage tests when I was about eight but only unaffiliated ones for a bit of fun,” explains Ruby, who still does vaulting three times a week. “It can be up to seven hours of training on a Saturday and then there are strength and conditioning sessions on top. But it has definitely helped my dressage – having a strong core helps, and of course standing on horses means you develop good balance.”

    And what’s it like having two grand prix riders as parents?

    “I don’t feel any pressure as they don’t mind what I want to do as long as I’m having fun, but I do get free lessons, which is a big bonus, and I have them to warm me up at shows,” enthuses Ruby.

    It clearly worked at Ruby’s most recent show, the Keysoe High Profile Show, as she not only won the junior individual test riding Extra Time – known as Hughie – but also finished second with a 70% score at prix st georges (PSG).

    “We went to Keysoe to do the PSG with no expectations and I was up against some pros so I didn’t know what would happen. I came out of the ring feeling like I had done the best test I could and to get 70% and come second was so unexpected and exciting,” says Ruby, who just one week earlier had been practising one-time changes on Hughie, out in the snow, bareback in a headcollar.

    “He is a horse of a lifetime,” confirms Ruby, who also says that of all the grand prix horses in the world, she would most like to ride Mount St John Freestyle – “I love her trot” – and current Olympic champion TSF Dalera BB. That’s in addition to Valegro of course – but then again, she has already had the chance to ride him.

    With so many accomplishments under her belt already, it can be easy to forget that Ruby still has years left in pony ranks, but she is aiming to compete at both levels again in 2022, as well as at advanced medium and small tour with Hughie and her other ride, Classic Bee Gee, on whom she won medium and elementary titles at the Winter Dressage Championships in 2021. She also has her eye on competing at some international shows in Europe – and that’s just the start.

    “I’m aiming for the top – it has always been my dream to go to the Olympics. My biggest dream would be to get that gold medal one day – someone has to after all!”

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