Young rider hopes to inspire others through trick riding

  • A young rider who turned her back on the show ring after she lost her confidence hopes to inspire others through trick riding.

    Nine-year-old Keeva Pengelly from Devon began riding when she was two and “fell into showing”, competing at national level.

    In 2017 Keeva won the lead rein show pony of the year title at Equifest, but when she moved on to first ridden classes in 2018 a bad experience at a show led Keeva to change the way she looked at horses, her mum Michaela Willis told H&H.

    “A judge at a local show was very harsh with her and it was very difficult to explain to an eight-year-old why an adult was being like that. Driving home from the show we had a chat and she said she didn’t want to do showing any more,” said Michaela.

    “The showing world is very dog-eat-dog. You see it a lot at shows – some people will say congratulations if you do well and win a ticket, but others will just blank you.”

    Michaela’s mum said Keeva lost her confidence and she was put in touch with Christine Rawle, a confidence coach, who introduced her to vaulting.

    “Keeva had become quite introverted. She always loved in-hand work when she did showing and she would spend her time alone working with her ponies. When she was introduced to vaulting it helped to build her confidence again,” said Michaela.

    In March 2019 Keeva spent an intensive weekend training in trick riding with Karis McCabe of The Devil’s Horsemen, a company which provides horses for television and film. She also became a member of the vaulting club at Talygarn Equestrian Centre in Wales where she trains every second weekend.

    “Keeva has learnt it’s about being at one with your horse – her confidence has grown so much,” said Michaela.

    “We make the six-hour round trip to the vaulting club and she will train every day with her own ponies at home, she’s very dedicated.”

    Through Keeva’s confidence coach she was invited to accompany The Devil’s Horsemen at the Mid Devon show on 27 July and the Honiton show on 31 July.

    “Keeva got to go behind the scenes and help groom the horses and watch them warm-up. They made her feel so welcome, she even got to sit on a horse used in Game of Thrones,” said Michaela.

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    “The team were showing her how to do things and making her feel part of it. It was so nice to see them embracing the next generation of riders.”

    Keeva hopes to host her own vaulting and trick riding demonstratons with her 14hh gelding Bentley in the future.

    “She has said by the time she is 12 that is what she wants to be doing. She wants to encourage and inspire other riders to do well and be kind to each other.”

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