RSPCA pony and 11-year-old rider on the podium at national dressage championships

  • RSPCA George and 11-year-old Theo Charnley continue to make waves and capture hearts on the national dressage stage, placing second in the under-21s prelim silver at the Petplan Winter Area Festival Championships on 70.62%.

    The RSPCA rescued George’s dam, neglected, from the side of the road while she was pregnant with him, and he was later born under their care. Theo and his dad Paul rehomed George as a two-year-old over lockdown and backed him themselves – a fact made even more remarkable when you learn Theo hadn’t really ridden before.

    Fast forward four years and Theo is now a budding professional, with a keen eye, whose dressage role model is Becky Moody. He’s even starting to catch up with Becky when it comes to national titles, having already won the under-21 intro title at the British Dressage (BD) Quest National Championships and the intro title at the SEIB Trailblazers Championships in 2023.

    However, this was his first Winter Area Festival Championships and he was pleased with his performance: “We got the right canter across the centre line which was good because we’ve been struggling with that – he did really well and was so well-behaved.”

    The judges were certainly impressed, with the combination’s marks never falling below six, with the highest reserved for the collective marks on Theo’s position and results.

    The combination will now look ahead to the summer regionals and moving up the levels to novice, for what could soon be their last hurrah between the white boards together, with Theo quickly outgrowing the 12hh pony.

    Fortunately, despite receiving several offers, George “isn’t going anywhere” according to dad Paul, and the combination, who have done so much to bring awareness to what rehomed rescue ponies can achieve, will continue working together, but in a new discipline.

    “We’re retraining to drive and he’s already starting driving with the British junior squad,” Paul explained. “So when Theo is too big for George – which will be quite soon – they can still continue their journey together.”

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