Mrs Roberts, our Equestrian Manager, and Mia, a member of our successful equestrian team, talk about the experience of being a rider at Leweston.
We currently have 23 students registered as competitive riders and many more who ride recreationally or are just starting out with lessons. There are also 12 Equestrian Scholars who are part of a mentorship programme which involves support within school as well as access to GB Young Rider Eventing Coach and Chef d’Equipe, Emma Fisher, and British Dressage UKCC Level 3 Coach and former British Dressage Pony Selector and Chef d’equipe Andrew Harris.
Mia, Year 11, has been riding for nearly 8 years and has been a member of the Leweston team since she joined the school in Year 9 as an Equestrian Scholar. She is currently riding a 10-year-old Irish sports horse called Logan. He has a consistent show jumping record up to 1.30m with many placings.
Whilst members of the team compete in dressage, show jumping, and eventing, Mia focuses on show jumping. “I like the idea of eventing but can never remember the dressage routines so I decided to stick to what I enjoy”, she says. “I compete in NSEA for Leweston and outside of school in British Show Jumping competitions. I occasionally compete for the Bristol and Somerset U21 Academy and hope to do more of this in the future”.
The Leweston team regularly competes at competitions and venues across the country including Moreton, Hickstead and Windsor. In 2020 the school won the National Schools Equestrian Association (NSEA) Regional Points League for the fifth year in a row, gaining the most points of any competing school in the country for the second year. More recently the team were named NSEA National Champions 2021 for the Intermediate 90-95cm Eventers Challenge at Hickstead in May 2021.
Mia usually competes once a week in show jumping events, and when she is not representing the school she competes for British Show Jumping. She says “I really enjoy the weekend shows as they are normally big events like National Championships. This year I am part of the Leweston team that qualified for the Royal Windsor Horse Show which I am excited about. Competitions are enjoyable but they also fill you with nerves as you get closer to jumping. I really enjoy meeting up with friends and bumping into some top show jumpers that you see on TV, they are really nice and generally happy to say hello.
The social part of these competitions is also enjoyable but there is nothing better than going clear, getting placed or winning. So much effort and training go into these events and if you or the horse are not performing up to your usual level, or you get too competitive and turn too tight you’re out of the placings and not likely to progress”.
Mia currently trains five days a week mainly in the evenings, but she will train at the weekend if not competing. The school supports Mia by allowing her to take time on Thursday afternoons to train offsite, an approach that applies to a number of the elite athletes.
Mia says “It is really important to keep the training varied so that Logan doesn’t get bored. I make sure I’m only jumping twice a week. The rest of the week is about establishing the ground work to help with steering and control, lunging is key for fitness and I also setup some gridwork and bounces to keep him flexible and agile.
It is also key for Logan to relax so I take him for long walks around the fields. I don’t have the time to keep a full training schedule for myself but it is something I need to do. Currently most of my fitness comes from all the yard duties that you get when you have horses at home and at least twice a week I go into the gym on the spin bike.”
Mia says “Life in the Leweston equestrian team is one of the best environments you could be in, everyone is super supportive and wants the best for you and the horse regardless of what height you compete at! The team experience is very positive and Mrs Roberts always makes sure she has spoken to every rider before they get on their horse, this makes sure we are all 100% confident in the route we take during an event”.
For Mia the most enjoyable thing about riding is building a partnership with her horse. Logan is a gentle giant and she has only had him for six months, four of which were in lockdown but they are now starting to work together as a team. “People see this and getting a compliment from my coach, friend, or Mrs Roberts feels as good as winning” she says.
Mia is ambitious for the future, “I want to be the best equestrian I can be, it is every teenager’s dream to become a professional rider but it is very hard to achieve so I am planning to go to Hartpury to study for a degree in Equestrianism so I can make a living to support my jumping. I would really like to win a National Championship for Leweston and give something back for all of the support they have given me since Year 9.
In the future I’d love to be competing Logan at 1.30m and if my talent allows I would love to jump higher and compete Internationally. But as long as I am enjoying my riding I will be happy”.
There are many pupils of all ages at Leweston interested in riding so we asked Mia to pass on some advance to our younger riders:
- Do not rush to jump the next height, you will get there
- Always listen to your coach as they are always right, even when you don’t like what they say
- Don’t stress about being perfect at every event
- Make sure you surround yourself with people who want you to do well, it’s a lot more enjoyable.
- Always put the horses needs before your own and to make sure all their tack is fitted properly
- Convince your Dad he doesn’t need that new car as much as you need your next horse!