Kenya to send first school team to Hickstead

  • Kenya will be sending a team to the schools championships at Hickstead this summer for the first time (6 August).

    The competition, founded in 1964 by Canon Peter Booth, gives school children the chance to jump in the main arena at Hickstead.

    Teams from Kuwait and South Africa have jumped in the class before, but this year, for the first time, British competitors will be joined by four girls from Hillcrest International School in Nairobi.

    The riders — Emma Carter, 15; Coral Hays (pictured), 15; Ornella Hutchison, 14 and Kate Smit, 17 — are travelling to the UK a week before the competition on 6 August to train on borrowed horses with coach John Thelwell in Leicestershire.

    The project has been organised by Hillcrest’s English teacher, Georgie Wheeler, who also runs the school’s expanding equestrian teaching and training activities.

    We’re always looking for new riding experiences. It’s really exciting and we’re really looking forward to coming to the UK and jumping at Hickstead,” she told H&H.

    The chance to compete at Hickstead is “an amazing opportunity” said Emma Carter.

    “I never in my wildest dreams thought it would happen without actually going to school in the UK,” she said.

    Her team-mate Ornella is equally excited.

    “I can’t wait to ride in a different environment with new horses and a whole new atmosphere. I really hope we make it to the finals,” she said.

    Mrs Wheeler moved to Hillcrest two years ago with her husband, who is the school’s principal.

    “Having seen the National Schools’ Equestrian Association (NSEA) in action in the UK I had a clear sense of what I wanted to achieve out here [Kenya],” she said.

    Last July the first international schools competition was held at Hillcrest, with seven schools competing.

    “We’re looking at setting up an East African branch of the NSEA,” added Mrs Wheeler.

    In Kenya most of the children ride ex-racehorses, as good ponies are very hard to find.

    Hillcrest has nine children in the prep school riding regularly on shared ponies, and 15-20 in the secondary school competing. To meet the growing demand the school is now looking into setting up its own equestrian centre.

    Ref: H&H 7 April, 2015

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