Friday, 19 August 2022

Girl, 8, chosen to compete at Horse of the Year Show

TWO girls from Goring Heath have won places at top equestrian events.

TWO girls from Goring Heath have won places at top equestrian events.

Gavina Semonella, eight, will be one of only 23 competitors in the lead rein class at this year’s Horse of the Year Show at the Birmingham NEC on Wednesday.

Briany Humphrey, 11, is to appear at the London International Horse Show at Olympia in December.

Gavina and a bay Welsh section pony called A Folan Honey Monarch, nicknamed Monty, qualified by winning their class at this year’s Lincolnshire County Show.

This earned them a place as one of the top mountain and moorland lead rein ponies in the country.

Gavina also competed at the Welsh national show with her own pony Burnside Lara and won the lead rein class and ridden champion and silver medal champion.

The youngster, who attends Stoke Row Primary School, began learning to ride with her mother Carmen Streams when she was two and first competed at county level when she was three.

Her father Justin had planned to buy Monty, who is stabled in Leicestershire, as a birthday present for her mother in March so they visited the owner Linda Card and Gavina rode the pony.

Mrs Card backed out of the sale but was impressed by Gavina’s technique so contacted the family and offered to let her compete with him.

Their victory at Lincolnshire in June was only their second qualifier and the third time they had competed in any event.

The judges assessed Gavina’s technique and Monty’s breed conformation, presentation and behaviour and the pair were chosen out of 30 hopefuls to be taken aside for closer inspection before being announced as the winners.

Miss Streams, who keeps 10 of her own horses and has competed at Horse of the Year several times, said: “We didn’t know what to expect as you can’t assume anything and the competition is incredibly intense.

“We were all absolutely elated when Gavina won. It’s an honour for her and a dream come true for me to see my little girl achieve that, especially when it’s on a pony she had only just been partnered with.

“Having been there and done the show myself, I understand the pressure it can bring because it’s very serious business.

“Winning the show would be the ultimate accolade and it’s something people from all over the world aspire to.

“However, Gavina is taking it well and I think she’s just excited to be taking part. She enjoys it very much — she’s very competitive and loves to win and hates losing, though she understands that has to happen sometimes!

“It’s a tremendous boost for her confidence as she has struggled academically. Her school encourages her to talk about her achievements in assembly, so they really make her feel like it’s something important.

“It’s a good character-building experience and it’s nice to think she might ultimately be able to find a career in that area.”

Meanwhile, Briany is one of only 11 children to have made it through to the London International Horse Show after winning a qualifying race at the Pembrokeshire Show in Haverfordwest last month.

She will be taking part in friendly showjumping races twice a day on Claredale Edward, a Shetland pony belonging to her racing team JPL Events, of Essex.

Briany, who lives in Crays Pond with her father Andy, mother Claire Dow and sister Emily, seven, started learning to ride at home when she was about two.

Her mother keeps ponies at nearby stables and when Briany was a baby she would put her on the animals’ backs to get her used to being in the saddle.

By the time Briany was six, she had developed a passion for riding and started taking lessons with the Woodland Hunt Pony Club, of Harpsden.

She wanted to get into racing and tried out for the JPL team in March. She qualified for its elite squad with whom she now trains every week.

To win her place at the London show, she had to come first in at least one of several qualifying events around the country.

After missing out at the Badminton Horse Trials and Lincolnshire and Devon county shows, among others, she thought she had got through after winning at the Cotswold Show in June.

Briany told all her friends and began raising money for the London show’s chosen charity, the Bob Champion Cancer Trust, which is expected of every successful entrant.

However, about a fortnight later, she was told she had been disqualified for narrowly straying outside the course boundary while tackling a corner.

Briany, who attends Langtree School in Woodcote, then came fourth at Gatcombe Horse Trials before winning by several lengths at the Welsh show.

Her mother said: “It was a complete shock that she even got into the elite racing team, so to qualify for the Olympia show isn’t what we expected at all. We thought this would just be a bit of fun for her.

“She was ecstatic to win the Cotswold Show but she handled the news of her disqualification with great maturity.

“She sent a message to everyone who had donated to apologise and explain what had happened and to promise she would keep trying.

“I’m sure many children her age would have stamped their feet and got very cross.

“Naturally, we were all over the moon when she got through. There was a huge roar from the crowd and she was smiling from ear to ear, though she was still fairly quiet and taking it all in her stride.

“She’s so pleased to be going to Olympia. We’ve been taking her there every year so she’s very excited to be part of the racing and to mingle with all the other jockeys.”

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