A SCOTTISH student has trotted off with a top Pony Club title against the odds after her horse fell seriously ill the night before the final.
Rebecca Stephen, 20, from Whiterashes, Aberdeenshire, romped to the top of the Pony Club Championships in Derbyshire on a borrowed mount after her beloved horse Maggie fell seriously ill the night before.
Luckily for the young Robert Gordon University student friend and teammate Harriet Baird was on hand to lend Rebecca her second horse, nine year-old Fingal.
Having only had an hour’s practice on her new gelding Rebecca thrilled her mum, dad and younger sister who travelled hundreds of miles to cheer her on towards winning the competition.
The 20 year-old is in her third year studying Sports and Exercise Science at the Aberdeen university, and is currently helping to teach the next generation of riders at the Cabin Equestrian Centre, in Inverurie.
Maggie falls ill
Rebecca said: “I’ve had a really fantastic year and I was so looking forward to competing with Maggie down at the Pony Club Championships.
“It’s such a prestigious tournament, and riders from all over the country are desperate to attend.
“Unfortunately, the night before the Open Eventing I noticed Maggie was becoming increasingly unwell.
“She was going into convulsions and suffering really terrible cramps, and her hip bones and ribs were protruding from her body.
“I was so upset – not because I couldn’t compete, but because of the state my horse was in. I’ve never seen her like that and I was left absolutely devastated.
“We had both put our heart and soul into training for this event.
“Luckily for me, my good friend Harriet came to my rescue and offered me her second horse just so I could compete.
“I didn’t for one second believe I could do so well on a horse I’ve never really ridden before.
“The standard of competition was higher than I had previously competed at and I knew I was going to be nervous on my own horse, never mind one I didn’t really know but I decided I’d try my best.
“Fingal did a good dressage test, went clear cross-country and only had one pole down in the show jumping. It was quite surreal and just brilliant that I ended up winning my arena.
“My parents had travelled down to cheer me on, but they were forced to leave early so they could get Maggie back home to recuperate.
“She’s feeling a lot better and is now enjoying a well-earned two week holiday.”
Champ has had outstanding year
Kind-hearted Rebecca was then presented with a trophy and saddlery gift vouchers at the event last week which she immediately handed over to friend Harriet.
Her mum, Jean, and dad, Mark, missed the medal presentation as they were rushing the seriously ill Maggie back home to the north-east of Scotland.
The sports science student has enjoyed an outstanding year in her chosen sport this year with her British universities team triumphing at the national competition and going on to achieve third place at the International University Equestrian Federation’s Student Riders Nations Cup in July.
In addition, Rebecca’s International University Equestrian Federation team was ranked World Number 1 for dressage at a major international event at the beginning of the year.
The champion horse-rider first jumped on a horse as a toddler and was given her first proper lessons at the age of five.
She began competing at the tender age of 11, and has been a member of the Scottish Under-21 equestrian team for the last seven years.
Following her studies Rebecca hopes to build a career in teaching children and the disabled the rudimentaries of her sport.
Her horse Maggie is now recovering back in Aberdeenshire.