10-year-old dressage fan who rides with a ‘smile on her face’ scores 93.8%

  • A young rider who scored 93.8% in a British Dressage (BD) rider skills test is aiming for team selection in the future.

    Ten-year-old Abigail Gray from Aberdeenshire received the score in the BD youth D squad rider skills test on her 14-year-old Welsh section C gelding Rascal on 19 January.

    Abigail’s mother Karen told H&H it was obvious early on Abigail was “addicted” to riding after she got her first lesson for her 5th birthday.

    “Abigail took weekly lessons on riding school ponies and we got her first pony, Danny, when she was eight. After she grew out of him we bought a Welsh section B called Brewster in February 2018, and in November we bought Rascal,” said Karen.

    “Brewster is more of a working hunter type pony but she did really well at the Pony Club regionals last summer, coming fifth individually in dressage and we thought ‘wow’. Rascal came up for sale so we took a gamble and bought him unseen.”

    Abigail and Brewster

    The D squad rider skills test, the equivalent to preliminary level, was Abigail’s first “official test” on Rascal.

    “Rascal is very new but we had been at training with Harry Payne a month prior and received a call asking if she would be a demo rider for the youth squad roadshow and do her D squad assessment at the same time so we thought we would see how it goes,” said Karen.

    “The test looks at how she influences the pony and rides as an individual and she got a super score. She was delighted, but she’s very humble – I don’t think she is quite aware of her abilities.”

    Karen said the Grays are a “non-horsey” family, but she has now taken up riding as well.

    “We didn’t have a clue about horses before. We quickly saw how much Abigail enjoyed it so we took more of an interest and I started taking lessons – but Abigail is better than me,” she said.

    Abigail, who is working towards novice level, will undertake training with the BD youth squad and is aiming to qualify for the Pony Club regionals this year.

    “Sally McCarthy at Aberdeen Riding Club is her main trainer who she trains with twice a week and we often use Caskieben Dressage, Harry Payne and Hannah Moody,” said Karen. “We’re lucky to have so many trainers visit the area and the riding club is a wealth of knowledge which is great for non-horsey families like us.

    “Abigail will be going through more structured training with the youth squad and will attend regional training days. We have to keep doing more competitions and build a portfolio of tests and fingers crossed she will get selected for team competitions – that’s the aim.”

    Karen said Abigail is very committed.

    “She’s at the stables six times a week and has both ponies to ride, but we do it because she loves it and she loves her ponies. Everyone at the riding school laughs because she always rides with a smile on her face.”

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