While the trials and tribulations of competing horses are familiar to most equestrians, 13-year-old show rider Alicia-Lily Roberts has certainly had her fare share of heartache and disappointment.

But there was probably no one more delighted and surprised than Alicia herself when she was called top of her Pretty Polly home-produced show hunter pony class and presented with the winner’s sash at the 2018 Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) on her seven-year-old 143cm pony Dowhills Enigma.

“She’s had a tough time with her ponies,” said her mother, Katie Roberts, who works as a civil servant and produces the pony from home with Alicia.

“We bought ‘Simon’ last year and he’s been quite challenging — it has taken them a while to form a partnership.

“They have been on quite a journey and I think they had about four seconds in Horse of the Year Show qualifiers last year.”

While the frustrating run of seconds was one thing for the Newport-based family, they suffered a devastating blow at the beginning of the season when their beloved 133cm show hunter pony Weydown Goldcrest suffered a fatal heart attack on the morning of a show.

“We were crushed,” continued Katie. “Showing has taken a bit of back seat for us this season because of this. As Alicia also plays hockey for the Welsh Dragons under-13s team,  we didn’t even think we’d qualify for the RIHS.”

Not to be deterred, Alicia and Simon made the most of their final few qualifiers, completely exceeding expectations by winning three separate classes and picking up tickets for the open and Pretty Polly home-produced show hunter pony and part-bred Arab finals. They also won their class at the Royal Bath and West.

“The Royal International was a complete dream. I think Alicia cried for about two hours after the win. She was competing against riders quite a bit older than her as she’s quite young to be on a 143cm.

“Simon is quite quirky so it’s taken us a while to get him going, but it’s made the win all the more sweeter,” said Katie.

“Alicia is really good with the ponies. While I’m finishing at work she will be at the yard mucking out and lunging.

“Her dream is to get to HOYS now, and I know she won’t stop working until she gets there.”

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