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Rider who faces seven-hour boat trip for every show to make three-day journey to championships

A young rider who lives closer to Norway than to Hartpury is to make the three-day trip to the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships next month (8-12 April).

Rachel Evans and her 10-year-old part-bred Connemara Kingswells Midnight Blue (Pepper) will be making the three-day trip to compete in the under-21 elementary class, for which their wild-card qualification as one of the highest-scoring non-qualified combination was confirmed last month.

Rachel, 17, lives on Shapinsay, one of the Orkney islands northeast of John O’Groats. There are no British Dressage (BD) competitions on the islands, so to compete, or even have training, she and her horses have to catch two ferries; from Shapinsay to Orkney, then a seven-hour trip to the mainland.

“When I first did that journey, it seemed a really big deal, now it doesn’t seem as much!” Rachel told H&H.

Rachel had grown up with ponies, as her parents had always had horses, but had not intended to compete in dressage until international rider Harry Payne gave a clinic on the mainland, through the-then BD youth scheme.

As she said, she “somehow qualified for something”, and has been competing from her island base ever since.

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Shapinsay is about 12 square miles in area, with a population of about 300, and its only sand area on which to ride is the beach. It will be about a three-day journey to Gloucestershire and Rachel plans to set off at the end of March.

“I haven’t had a lesson on Pepper since October [when she achieved her qualifying score] as the weather’s been too unpredictable to travel,” she said. “So hopefully I’ll go over at the end of March and get some training in before we go.

“It’s going to be a bit of a mad dash but it’s lovely to have qualified, I’m really looking forward to it.

“I was so excited when I heard I’d qualified; it took a few days to finally realise what had happened.”

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