EQUESTRIAN: WARWICK youngster Sophie Phillips booked her spot at the prestigious Horse of the Year Show last week after bagging gold at the second round of the Blue Chip Pony Newcomers class.
Phillips, who started riding when she was nine, stormed to the top of the leaderboard and clinched victory in her qualifying round on board Valentino Supreme in a time of 41.9 seconds – almost ten seconds clear of her nearest challenger.
What made the occasion even more special was that the 16-year-old guided her mount through every step of the learning process since her family purchased Valentino Supreme – known on the yard as Lennie – as a four-year-old novice.
The Kingsley School student faced an uphill task to qualify for the finals as only two places at HOYS were on offer to the 111 combinations that entered the qualifying event.
Following two rounds, just 12 remained to go head-to-head against the clock in the final jump-off.
Sophie stormed to first place with a lightning fast performance ahead of Isabelle Ryder, Sinead Cox, and Katie Pryce.
Speaking to The Observer, the Warwick-based rider said she’s excited to be competing at HOYS this year rather than paying to be a spectator.
She said: “I am very excited to jump at HOYS in October. Especially in the class which me and my mum have been going to watch for the past four years.
“My mum used to show jump when she was younger so she always encouraged me to ride and become competitive.
“I used to jump unaffiliated on my first pony and in 2014 we brought Lennie – he was very novice as he was only four at the time. We took things slow with him and made sure he was produced correctly.”
Phillips has not only displayed a talent for riding, but also breaking in her horse.
Described as a ‘spooky’ character, the teenager has taught everything her eight-year-old knows – something which made last week’s victory even more sweet.
“It’s extremely rewarding, especially doing it all on a pony I have produced myself,” Sophie said.
“All the work me and the people who have helped me have put in has definitely paid off.
“It wasn’t always easy trying to teach a young pony when I was inexperienced myself.
“Lennie can be quite spooky but he has a heart of gold. He is clever and always seems to know when it is an important occasion.”
Proud mum Tracey added: “We are all so proud of the hard work she has put in over the last few years. She is so committed and we are thrilled she has achieved her dreams with a pony of a lifetime.”
This year’s Horse of the Year Show takes place from October 4 until October 8 at Birmingham’s NEC.