Over the next 12 months, Animalife will be getting to know more about ten different riders, and following their progress. We will experience the highs and lows of horsemanship, celebrate the successes and share with you the genuine passion of all these equestrians. Here we introduce you to the 2015 team.
TREVOR BREEN Buckinghamshire
In a nutshell: Irish international showjumper
Top rides: Classic III, an eight-year-old stallion; Oldtown KC, an 11-year-old stallion; Adventure De Kannan, a 15-year-old gelding and Bombay, an eight-year-old mare.
This year he hopes to: compete in Nations Cups for Ireland and to win the Hickstead Derby for the second year running, as well as the King’s Cup.
Proudest achievement: the five-star Super League Nations Cups and winning the Hickstead Derby.
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Why horses? “The wins are so rewarding, especially as most of our horses are produced from a young age. The satisfaction of this is like jumping a double clear at a Nations Cup.”
MELANIE GEDDIS Northern Ireland
In a nutshell: showjumping at national level
Top rides: Antrim Coast M2S, a 10-year-old gelding by Ulysses M2S, currently competing up to 1.35m. Jaydious Diamond, a 9-year-old gelding by Condios, currently competes at 1.25m.
This year she hopes to: compete at the Royal Dublin Horse Show again and continue bringing on horses through the levels
Proudest achievement: bringing on three horses and competing them at the Royal Dublin Horse show.
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Why horses? “The best part of my day is coming home to work with the horses — there is no other way I would rather spend my free time. I have always loved being able to bring a horse up through the levels — it is really rewarding.”
PIGGY FRENCH Northamptonshire
In a nutshell: eventing at CCI4* International level
Top ride: Westwood Mariner (Rooney), 14-year-old 16.2hh bay Irish Sport Horse.
This year she hopes to: take Rooney to Luhmühlen CCI4*, having decided to miss Badminton this year.
Why horses? “Being a professional event rider was all I ever wanted to do. Growing up, I was a proper eventing geek — I had scrapbooks, drew course maps, wrote letters to Mary King and everything else.”
MICHAEL ASHTON Kent
In a nutshell: currently eventing at BE100 and competing in BD novice dressage
Top rides: Rockabilly, a 16.2hh, 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse/thoroughbred gelding eventing at BE100. Beltons Entente Concordiale, a 15.2hh, nine-year-old mare competing at BE90 and BD novice.
This year he hopes to: qualify for the Badminton Grassroots Championship 2016 and the Amateur Eventer Dressage Championships in September 2015.
Proudest achievement: representing the Bay of Plenty at the National Pony Club Eventing Championships in New Zealand aged 17, finishing third with a double clear.
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Why horses? “I spent my childhood on and around horses. I recently returned to eventing after 14 years as a renowned celebrity hair and make-up artist.”
SARAH JENKINS-BROWN Bedfordshire
In a nutshell: 23-year-old endurance rider, competing at open level
Top ride: Winter Mist, known as Charm, a 14-year-old 17hh dressage-bred Dutch warmblood by Ferrolan.
This year she hopes to: try to continue the fantastic results from last year, gaining three Grade Ones and a completion at some very testing rides at distances of up to 45km, as well as ride up to 80km.
Proudest achievements: overcoming an injury that left more of an emotional scar than a physical one.
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Why horses? “I have learnt so much from Charm — I’ve never had such a willing horse. It is that feeling which made me fall in love with horses. No one understands a bond between horse and rider until they have one.”
GARETH HUGHES Warwickshire
In a nutshell: world and European dressage medallist
Top equine: Classic Briolinca, a nine-year-old Dutch mare owned by Gareth, Rebecca Hughes and Julia Hornig.
This year he hopes to: start Classic Briolinca’s international grand prix career, and depending how she starts, the pair will see where the year takes them.
Proudest achievements: representing Britain at the European Championships and World Equestrian Games.
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Why horses? “I always had an interest in dressage for some reason. I liked the intensity of the training and the building of a partnerhsip. I was also too scared to jump!”
CHANTELLE SYMONDS Wiltshire
In a nutshell: amateur dressage rider competing at elementary/medium
Top ride: Stadmorslow Coffee ‘n’ Cream, a 15.1hh, eight-year-old Appaloosa/Welsh section D gelding.
This year she hopes to: compete at the summer regionals at elementary restricted, the PetPlan Area Festivals at medium restricted and achieve Home International team selection at elementary.
Proudest achievement: scoring 67.8% in the novice restricted class at the 2015 British Dressage Winter Championships, finishing second at the Petplan Area Festival with 71.21% in 2014, and riding at the BYRDS U25 Home International in 2014 with scores up to 72%.
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Why horses? “Riding is a huge, yet natural part of my life. It’s a great way to relax after a long day at work, as well as a good way to channel my competitiveness.”
AUSTIN O’CONNOR Oxfordshire
In a nutshell: Irish four-star event rider
Top rides: three horses on the long list for Rio: Balham Houdini, Ringwood Mississippi and Kilpatrick Knight.
This year he hopes to: work through the levels with the young horses and represent Ireland at the European Championships at Blair Castle, Scotland.
Proudest achievement: finishing fourth at Badminton 1999 on Simply Rhett, 21st at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 17th in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, 13th at Kentucky CCI4* in 2013 and 15th at Badminton 2014.
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Why horses? “Eventing makes you hugely appreciate the good days; life with horses can be unpredictable.”
NICOLE PAVITT West Sussex
In a nutshell: international four-star showjumper
Top rides: Victor Blue, a 13-year-old chestnut gelding owned by Ginny Quine; Our Duchess, 11-year-old bay mare owned by Marcella Esnaola; Tia Semilly, an eight-year-old mare owned by Old Lodge.
This year she hopes to: gain enough ranking points to get into three- and four-star shows here in England, as well as Olympia and maybe team selection.
Proudest achievement: winning her first world ranking class at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) last year on Victor, and seeing her owners get excited.”
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Why horses? “My older sister started showjumping aged seven. I wasn’t that interested, but then a family friend loaned me a very good pony and I was hooked!”
Megan Alecock Dorset
In a nutshell: 14-year-old eventing at BE90/100
Top ride: Hamlin Ester, a 14.1hh, part-Welsh section D mare.
This year she hopes to: move up to novice, qualify for the Badminton Grassroots Championships 2016 and do the BE100 under 18 teams and training.
Proudest achievement: qualifying for Badminton Grassroots in her first year of trying with three regional final tickets, as well as winning two consecutive BE90s at Pontispool and Treborough.
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Why horses? “The commitment, dedication, curiosity, persistence, love, memories and the brushing off of dust is what makes equestrianism unique.”