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Covid brings opportunities for young showjumping rider

A teenage rider has been able to turn problems into opportunities after she was taken under the wing of a local eventer and producer when her family caught Covid.

The ambitious rider faced a series of difficulties caused by the pandemic but is now helping to produce competition horses as well as her own jumping pony — a chance she would not have had if Covid had not struck.

During the first lockdown, Robyn Perfitt kept her ponies on DIY livery but the yard owner shut the yard and asked everyone to turn their ponies away or switch to full livery.

The then 13-year-old was only able to visit her ponies Bradford Fantasy, a Dartmoor, and Barkway Versace, a show pony, over the field fence.

“It hit her hard,” said her mother Joanne Ford-Perfitt. “She has ridden in showing since the age of five and had her heart set on starting the ponies showjumping and eventing, but it put a stop to everything.

“She couldn’t ride her ponies or spend much time with them and with school closed as well I was worried about the impact it might have on her mental health.”

Joanne spoke to local eventer Myles West and asked if Robyn, who is now 14, could do some yard work part-time.

As Robyn proved a great help around the yard and was capable in the saddle, Myles started to involve her in riding horses that were being backed and schooled for clients.

“Robyn first sat on a lovely pony that was in for training and quickly moved up to Myles’s horses,” her mother said. “Robyn’s dreams all came true at once as she was getting incredible training every day, riding amazing talented horses and learning to showjump to a higher standard.”

Robyn returned to school and also worked hard on her own ponies who she was able to get out showjumping. As both were then outgrown, she had to sell them, and a new pony was bought, Donny (Pride Of Cong). But just after they started getting out to training events, the country went back in to lockdown.

At Christmas Covid hit the family home and Robyn, who tested negative, had to go and stay with her grandparents so she could still take care of Donny.

“Rather than Robyn’s grandparents having to drive back and forth, Myles offered to collect the ponies and take them to his yard,” Joanne said. “Things were difficult, and we’d also recently lost three family members, but for Robyn everything got more exciting as she was able to be based at Myles’ full time.”

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Robyn has continued to ride and train with Myles while taking her school Zoom lessons at the yard, also doing school work on the evenings and weekends.

“He gets her on everything, young dressage horses he has bred, a lot of his eventers and showjumpers and her riding has changed completely, she can sit on a big fit powerful warmblood and be effective now,” her mother said. “Robyn has been offered to showjump one of his top horses Hatrick2 this year. She’ll be also competing Donny this year in British Showjumping and British Eventing as soon as shows start.

“The pandemic may have devastated the country but if the schools hadn’t have closed, Robyn wouldn’t have had the opportunities she has,” she added.

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