‘They tried their little hearts out’: young dressage rider scores 95.8% on team debut

A young dressage rider and her ‘little partner’ have scored an impressive 95.8% on their team British Dressage (BD) debut.

Abigail Gray, 11, from Aberdeenshire made the journey to Keysoe for the BD Youth Inter-Regionals on 29-30 June as part of Team Scotland with her 14-year-old Welsh section C gelding Rascal.

Abigail’s mother Karen told H&H Abigail, the youngest rider on the team, took the competition “all in her stride”.

“When she was selected for the team she wanted to do it so my husband, Peter, and I thought we would let her have the experience in a bigger competition and give her a foundation for going forward,” said Karen.

“It’s the first time Abigail has been in such a big warm-up with other riders. Adults aren’t allowed inside the arena and she coped so well and got on with it. She thrived in the big competition setting. She was always asking to go and watch other riders – she likes to watch and learn and embraces everything.”

The Scottish team of Abigail, Emily Sutherland, Reece Cunningham, Sophie Donaldson and Zoe Florence finished fifth out of 42 teams.

Abigail, competing in the D-squad rider skills test (the equivalent of preliminary level), produced winning scores on both days of competition; 95.8% on the first and 94.4% on the second, the highest scores of the whole competition, and was crowned D-squad champion on both days.

“The team did so well – it was such a positive experience for them and we’re very grateful to everyone involved,” said Karen. “We are absolutely delighted for Abigail, it’s not what we expected. We had hoped for a top-10 result so when she won on both days we were just over the moon.

“It was so emotional to see how much she and Rascal tried their little hearts out. Abigail had the hugest smile, she was delighted.

“They’ve developed such a lovely partnership; she’s really bonded with Rascal. He tested her a bit on the second day but she rode so positively. She’ll cuddle and speak to him; he isn’t something she just goes out and competes on, he’s her little partner – she loves him to pieces.”

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Karen said Abigail is aiming to qualify for the Pony Club championships held from 16 to 20 August, and is aiming for team selection for the BD under-25 championships, held from 19 to 24 August at Sheepgate Equestrian Centre.

“She has qualified for the BD regionals at Cabin Equestrian Centre in August so we will see how she gets on,” said Karen. “Next year she will move up to C squad (the equivalent of novice level).

“We’re at the start of her journey – it’s quite exciting. She just loves riding and wants to put herself forward for things and we’re happy to support her as long as she loves doing it.”

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