‘This year was incredible’: meet an exciting young combination, who jump bridleless at home

Over this festive season, we are shining a light on up-and-coming talent across the equestrian disciplines. These are people you really need to keep an eye out for during the 2024 season…

  • Serena Kullich, 23, is one of the most eye-catching young showjumpers on the circuit but she is also producing one of this country’s most talented young horses in seven-year-old Benfields Victory.

    Serena and Benji (Billy Congo x Pauldary’s Romeo) sealed a marvellous year when contesting the prestigious Yeti Under 25 British Showjumping Championship at the London International Horse Show in December, where they finished with just four faults in round one.

    “That was a dream come true to qualify for that class, especially with him only being seven,” says Serena, who rode the youngest horse in the field by three years. “It’s a show I’ve wanted to do for many, many years – it was an amazingly fun atmosphere, and an incredible show to compete at.”

    In September, they jumped at the world seven-year-old finals at the FEI WBFSH Jumping World Breeding Championships for Young Horses at Lanaken.

    Serena has about 10 horses at home, but Benji is the stable star.

    “I’ve got quite a few four-, five- and six-year-olds coming through that I’m producing through the levels and hopefully they might qualify for Lanaken next year,” she says. “If they’re as good as Benji I’ll be delighted. But I love producing them and watching them grow, and I’ve had Benji since he was five. He’d done a few shows when I got him, but really I’ve done everything with him and produced him, so when he was best British-bred seven-year-old, that meant a lot. He was also the only seven-year-old to jump clear every day at Bolesworth.”

    The pair have formed a remarkable partnership in the ring, but away from competition Serena says she’ll happily jump Benji without a bridle at home.

    “I’ve worked with [Applied Horsemanship trainer] Sean Coleman for three years now,” she says. “When we got Benji, he was very distracted, just about everything around him, so it was all about working with him to focus and now we have such a great partnership that I can school him and jump him at home without a bridle.”

    Serena Kullich: from eventing to showjumping

    Serena has ridden all her life and showjumped on ponies before competing up to three-star level eventing.

    “But I’ve always had a love for showjumping,” she explains. “Even when I was eventing, I missed the showjumping. Then I slowly ended up moving back into showjumping and now it’s just showjumping again.”

    The talented young rider has also been selected for the British Showjumping gold development programme and attended the first coaching camp in early December.

    “I didn’t realise they give you such rounded support, from all aspects – not just training – so sport psychology, fitness, and advice on shows and pressure in the sport, that kind of thing,” she says. “That’s so invaluable and not something you do or know that much about without an opportunity like this.

    ‘There will be three more camps through the spring, then they help you at an international show in the summer. They help you with your goals but it’s also exciting just to progress through the sport.”

    Serena’s goal for 2024 is to step up the lovely Benji to ranking classes in his eight-year-old year.

    “One day I’d love to be selected for Nations Cup teams,” she says. “Then with the young ones I hope to keep producing them through the age classes and maybe qualify for Lanaken again.

    “The Olympics would definitely be the goal one day, but I’m taking it step by step and we’ll see how far we can go. Everything Benji has done this year has just been incredible, so I’d love to keep going with him and see where it takes us.”

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