Young British rider writes a fairytale ending at the Winter Equestrian Festival

  • Many young riders will aspire to win the competition of their dreams, whether it is at Hickstead, Aachen, Spruce Meadows perhaps, or the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). For Britain’s Grace Debney her dream came true yesterday, at just 18 years of age, on the stadium derby field at WEF, winning her first-ever five-star class – the $37,000 1.45m CSI5*.

    “This has been a dream of mine for the longest time,” said Grace. “And I never actually thought it would come true, but the fact that it is with her is unbelievably special.” The mare she refers to is Zarina De Vidau, a horse she has come up through the ranks with since the junior jumpers.

    The duo’s trust in one another showed through as the only combination to finish their round in under 55 seconds. Relying on the connection they have, Grace and Temple Equestrian LLC’s 11-year-old CDE mare were able to leave several strides out across the course to raise the bar for the competition with a final time of 54.97 seconds.

    “Every time we went to leave a stride out today, I would have a split-second thought of pulling to fit in one more,” Grace said. “Then I would remember it was Zarina, and I would know that she had my back. We have so much trust in one another, and she truly enjoys her job, which makes it better for all of us.”

    Riders from 14 nations made up the 50 contenders that took the derby field. Brazil’s course designer Guilherme Jorge built a track to merit the highlight of the day’s WEF action featuring a single-round speed challenge, with an economical time limit of 76 seconds. Ireland’s Daniel Coyle and his leading horse, Farona, took the early lead in the speed class on 55.30 seconds.

    Ariel Grange’s 12-year-old KWPN mare stayed on top of the leaderboard for most of the class until the young British rider re-wrote the narrative with a fairytale ending.

    “She has been my rock for so long,” Grace said of her longstanding partner. “And somehow she has stepped up even more for me this year. Never in a million years would I have thought I would win a five-star competition during Rolex week with this horse.”

    You may also be interested in…

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...