‘Mummy, was it just a dream?’ 10-year-old showjumper heads for HOYS on six-year-old pony

  • The mother of a 10-year-old rider who qualified a six-year-old pony for the 138cm final at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) said she nearly pulled the pair out as she thought the course was too much for them.

    Portia Taylor-Wilson and Whitethorn Smokey jumped triple clear at Arena UK’s pony premier show on 22 May to take their first HOYS ticket.

    Mum Rebecca Clay told H&H she had “never expected it in a million years”.

    “The next day, she woke up and said ‘Mummy, was it all a dream?’” she said. “‘It’s surreal.”

    Rebecca bought “Luna” as a three-year-old, “thinking we’d probably sell her on”.

    “We took her to her first shows after one of the lockdowns in 2020 and she jumped a couple of classes,” she said. “We started thinking ‘We like this pony’, and it went from there.

    “We slowly built her up; she jumped her British novices and discoveries last year, and when we stepped her up to the Springboards, I thought the pony had plenty of jump. We thought this year we’d just try the HOYS qualifiers to get a feel for it, we never expected to qualify at the first one!”

    Rebecca said when she saw the course, which as a table A8 competition had two jump-off rounds, she nearly pulled her daughter out.

    “I nearly didn’t let her do it, I said it was too strong for her but she said ‘Mummy, I want to jump’; she was adamant and between her and her friends, they twisted my arm,” she said.

    “Then she just kept jumping clear. I felt physically sick; I was watching the whole thing through my fingers, but they were absolutely amazing. I’m proud beyond belief.”

    At 10, and so still eligible for 128cm classes for two years, Portia was competing against riders up to the age of 14, and on a pony she has produced herself.

    “She’s up at 6.30am every morning to ride before school, then up there again afterwards,” Rebecca said. “This is everything to Portia. She puts her heart and soul into this and all the years of blood, sweat and tears are paying off.

    “She was the youngest in the class by far and I don’t think there are many 10-year-olds who have qualified for the 138s at HOYS.”

    Rebecca added that Luna is “the politest, kindest pony ever”.

    “This was the first time she’d ever jumped that height,” she added. “The last round must have been 1.25m. We’re still pinching ourselves.”

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