Road to Olympia: meet the 24-year-old former broodmare who has gone from nervous companion to Olympia finalist

A Welsh section A mare who was used as a broodmare for the first 19 years of her life is set to compete in the SSADL veteran finals at Olympia in December.

Samantha Norris’ 24-year-old Maesglas Lili Wen (Poppy) qualified for the coveted championship in-hand at Onley in September.

“I’ve had Poppy for almost five years,” said Derbyshire-based Samantha, who works as a client support advisor for Ticketmaster. “I originally loaned her as a companion for the first two years before she was kindly gifted to me as a 21st birthday present; I don’t know what I would do without her now.”

The pair started competing at Pony Club level and have slowly built up their experience and ribbon collection over the years.

“Poppy was a broodmare for the first 19 years of her life and she’s had several homes along the way, so gaining her trust hasn’t been easy.

“We started our SSADL journey in 2016 gaining several class wins and learning about the society. I was excited to start the 2017 season and seriously campaign the qualifiers.

“Unfortunately this was halted in May last year when Poppy damaged her tendon in the field. The prognosis wasn’t good and I was heartbroken to think she would never be sound enough to compete again. We turned her away with the help of her previous owners and an open mind. We decided to bring her back into work early this year and we’ve really had an unbelievable season.

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“We managed to take the golden ticket we have longed for at the SSADL championship show at Onley in September. This is the biggest thing we’ve achieved and to look back on where we started is incredible. I’m proud that we get to enter the international arena in December and show people what can be achieved if you really want it.”

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