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Riding high: Equestrian sports bask in Olympic success
FOLLOWING London 2012, Britain is officially the best country in the world at Olympic horse riding.
Team GB aced the equestrian event with three gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
And, with more than 20 stables and equestrian centres in the county, Oxfordshire is a great place to learn.
Sarah Hill, who runs Pigeon House Equestrian near Woodstock, said the club has welcomed 20 new members since the Olympic games.
Ms Hill, 42, from North Leigh, near Witney, said: “It has been really good for the sport.
“The British are great riders, going back years and years.”
She said it takes 18 months for a rider to build up the necessary bond with their horse.
Olympic horse riders compete in three disciplines – dressage, show jumping, and eventing, which combines the first two skills with cross-country racing.
Ms Hill’s 17-year-old daughter, Olivia Abdolrazaghi, is in training to become a professional horse rider, and hopes one day to compete in the Olympics.
Next year she will take part in eventing competitions, for which she had to register with the governing body, British Eventing.
Miss Abdolrazaghi said: “It is a very competitive environment, but I like the thrill of it.”
At each event, the competitors first walk the cross-country course with their trainers to memorise the route.
Next is a more artistic dressage display, where riders are marked out of 10 for their routine, putting their horse through a series of carefully- choreographed movements.
Then comes the show jumping event, where riders aim to get round in the fastest time without knocking down any part of the jumps.
Finally, the rider takes on the cross-country course over 1,500 or 2,000 metres, depending on the skill level, with between 24 and 28 wooden jumps.
Success at Olympic level does not come cheap. Miss Abdolrazaghi said: “It is very money-orientated – I am hoping to get sponsorship next year.”
Ms Hill points out you do not have to be competitive to enjoy horse riding.
She said: “A lot of people have such a busy lifestyle, it is so nice to do something that is for you and nobody else.”
She said holidays which offer horse riding were popular with couples.
“It is a really nice thing to do as a couple.
“There are not that many sports that you learn and then go away and enjoy as a couple.”
To find out more about the sport, visit britisheventing.com, and to find your local equestrian centre visit touristnetuk.com and search for Oxfordshire horse riding.
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