Christmas came early for four members when long-term equestrian sponsor Land Rover gave them a riding lesson with Olympic gold medal-winning show jumper Ben Maher.
Keira Shafiq, 10, Briony Martin, 11, Duncan Sloan, 14 and Charlotte Gayle, 16, all won an individual show jumping title at the Land Rover Pony Club Regional Championships in August. As part of their prize, title sponsors Land Rover arranged for them to have a show jumping lesson with the London 2012 Olympic Gold medalist at his training base.
After the lesson, Briony Martin, who is a member of the Crawley & Horsham Pony Club said: “I have had the most fantastic afternoon at Ben Maher’s yard. Since a young child I have watched Ben compete at Hickstead and Olympia, so to actually meet him and have a lesson with him, is just an amazing experience and one that I will always treasure.”
Atherstone Pony Club member, Kiera Shafiq said: “I really enjoyed practicing my jump-off turns with Ben. I found the whole experience so exciting and enjoyed meeting Ben and his team and especially Diva. I’ll be watching Ben at Olympia Horse Show, especially his jump off turns to make sure he practices what he teaches!”
Nithsdale Pony Club member, Duncan Sloan said: “This was an experience of a lifetime - it was amazing and unforgettable! I’m so glad Dinky and I got this opportunity. Massive thank you to Ben and all the team for making our day so special.”
The Land Rover Pony Club Regional Championships is aimed at grassroots riders with the intention of introducing new talent into a competitive structure. In its inaugural year, there were five championships events across the UK in the summer school holidays. Each individual winning Show Jumper was offered the opportunity to have a lesson from Land Rover ambassador Ben Maher.
Ben, who competed for Team GB at Rio 2016, said: “The Land Rover Pony Club Regional Championships is a brilliant initiative that gives young riders a chance to experience a competition environment for the first time. It’s a great prize that Land Rover has arranged for the winning riders. I hope Briony, Keira and Duncan learnt something today and essentially had some fun at the same time.”
The 33-year-old added: “I started riding when I was eight years old and was a member of my local Pony Club. It is the biggest youth equestrian organisation in the world and it provides a brilliant platform for young people to learn about caring for horses.”
The Land Rover Pony Club Regional Championships will be expanded in 2017 to include Eventing alongside Dressage and Show Jumping; giving Pony Club Members even more opportunities to take part in entry level team competitions.
The inaugural Championships proved a huge success, with over 2,000 grassroot horse and rider combinations taking part, some of whom were experiencing a competitive environment for the very first time.
Each of the nineteen Pony Club Areas will hold qualifying competitions, where the top eight teams and individuals will head to one of five Regional Championship events. Here, riders will be crowned winners in their regions and receive a wealth of prizes kindly donated by sponsors Land Rover.
Eventing competitors will need to ride a basic Dressage Test consisting of walk, trot and a small period of canter, before jumping Cross Country and completing a Show Jumping round with fences at 80cm.
The Dressage and Show Jumping Championships will follow the same format, with a walk, trot and canter Dressage Test and a course of 80cm show jumps.
For more information about Land Rover Pony Club Regional Championship Eventing click here, Show Jumping click here and Dressage click here.
Land Rover has more than 30 years heritage in the equestrian sport and is a long-term supporter of several major equestrian events including Royal Windsor Horse Show and the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. To find out more about Land Rover’s long-term commitment to equestrian sport, click here
Image: Nico Morgan / Land Rover