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West Country's best set to compete in equestrian at the Rio Olympic Games

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 04, 2013

Jessica Mendoza in action

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After a summer in which the West Country performed so strongly at the equestrian arena at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, young riders from the region are again being tipped for gold in t he Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The region’s riders – among them Charlotte Dujardin, Laura Bechtolsheimer and Deborah Criddle – played a crucial role in helping Team GB amass a hoard of gold medals at the Greenwich arena in the summer and there is clearly plenty more talent to follow.

The 2013-2015 World Class Development Programme was announced by the British Equestrian Federation yesterday.

Nine riders from Wiltshire, Somerset, Herefordshire and Dorset feature in the 49-strong list, including the programme’s youngest member, showjumper Jessica Mendoza 16, from Lyneham, who was part of the gold-medal winning team at last year’s European Pony Championships in France. Jessica, a sixth former at St Mary’s School, Calne, has been riding since she was two. She has two horses, Classic Highfly, and Nuggets L’Amandour, whom she bought from Olympic team gold-winning showjumper Peter Charles. “I was really happy when I heard I had been chosen,” she said.

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Others from the region included in the 49-strong group are dressage riders Hannah Briggs, of Dorset, and Alex Hardwick, of Herefordshire. Alex Sutton, of Wiltshire, is the sole West rider in the para-equestrian dressage category.

And among the 12 eventers chosen, Laura Collett, David Doel, Tom McEwen and Harry Meade, all of Wiltshire, join Millie Dumas, of Shepton Mallet in Somerset.

New to the programme, Millie told the Western Daily Press: “I feel very privileged to have been selected and I’m very excited for the training to start which will be great prep for the new season. I have big aims for 2013 as I’m hoping to get on to the Young Rider European team with my top horse, Artistiek. Hopefully by getting onto the world class programme it will help me achieve my aim.”

The training is paid for with cash from the Exchequer and National Lottery, distributed by UK Sport, and riders will be assessed every six months. The BEF was given £13.4 million in the run-up to the London Olympics and £3.6 million for the Paralympics. The teams’ success saw those figures rise to £17.9 million and £3.7 million.

Performance director Will Connell said: “After such a fantastic 2012 which saw our equestrian athletes perform magnificently in London at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, it is great to start 2013 with the announcement of the Development Programme which identifies our most talented up and coming athletes.

“The strength in depth across all four disciplines made the selection process very difficult. It is therefore beholden on both those athletes that have been re-selected and those that are new to the Programme to make the most of the help and expertise available to them.”

“To see such a wealth of talent during the selection process is testament to the success of the World Class Programme, the Sport England-funded Excel Programme and the member bodies’ programmes and should give us great confidence to build for the future.”

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