Road to HOYS: Scottish home-producer on her way to final after reaping benefits of society bursary

  • After a successful season with her 138cm show pony Chanlee Delightful Dan, Scottish show rider Zara Mailer is gearing up for their first appearance at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) together, after gaining a coveted ticket at the Great Yorkshire back in July.

    Fourteen-year-old Zara and her mother Victoria Taylor are based just outside Stirling in central Scotland and produce the ponies from home. Earlier this year, Zara was awarded the National Pony Society (NPS) Cuddington Stud bursary, a £250 fund to contribute towards training sessions and lessons.

    “We bought Dan from the Brookes family with the intention of showing him during 2020,” says Victoria, who notes that showing is juggled with Zara’s school commitments and work on the family farm. “This year, Zara and Dan have had a tremendous season, qualifying for the Royal International, winning at the Royal Highland, qualifying for HOYS and standing champion at both BSPS Scotland spring and finale shows.”

    Zara applied for the bursary during lockdown and has been required to keep the society updated with her training plans. She’s used the support to have regular lessons with Edinburgh-based Charlie Cousins.

    “The bursary was something different,” says Zara. “We’ve had several training sessions with Charlie and my riding has improved dramatically, especially my position. He’s helped me work on my individual shows and It’s been a real confidence boost to see the work paying off at competitions. Charlie has given us some helpful tweaks before HOYS and he also gave Dan his clip, too.”

    The Great Yorkshire was Dan and Zara’s first show on English turf and despite not being pulled in after the initial go round, the duo pulled off a flawless show to move up and qualify in fourth place.

    “It was our first major show together and Dan was so easy; he went in the ring with only 15 minutes working in,” says Zara, who last rode at HOYS in 2018 with Milton Pageboy and is currently working towards her exams at school.

    “Being home-produced, it is difficult to fit everything in, especially with the added pressure of HOYS this year,” adds Victoria. “We live on a farm and don’t have an arena but we work together and get it done. It’s rewarding to have done it together as a little team.”

    It will take the family seven hours to get to the NEC in October:

    Zara concludes: “We’re really excited, and a little nervous.”

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