Dressage star and Writtle College student Gaby Lucas has been selected for the Junior European Dressage Team.
Gaby, who has just completed a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Horse Management at the College and is going to continue to study there for a degree in Equine Sports Therapy starting next year, has been selected for the GB squad for the second year running.
It is the latest in a string of successes for the 17-year-old, who has received a letter from the Queen congratulating her for her selection.
Speaking at Writtle College, while wearing boots studded with Swarovski crystals - one of her sponsors, she said: “I am really excited that I have been picked for the Europeans for the third time in a row. I am so proud of Laurentius and it just shows that hard work pays off.
“When I received the letter from the queen I felt really proud and privileged that she took the time to write a long letter to me. It really encouraged and motivated me for the Europeans.”
Gaby, who lives in Brentwood, has been riding since the age of two. In April, she was part of the four-strong team which won gold in Saumur, in southern France, in the Junior Nations Cup – the first time GB has won the junior title. She was the second highest placed Brit in the competition, coming fifth in the time test, fifth in the individual and sixth in the music.
At the Regionals, she was the youngest person to win at the Advanced Medium Open with a score of 70.6%.
She trains on the British Equestrian Federation’s World Class Development Programme with her own horse, Laurentius II, a 15-year-old Danish Warm Blood (18.2hh), which has won four different European championships for three different countries. She has competed in six internationals with him, including the Junior Europeans in Switzerland last year, where she came fourth.
She said: “I am the youngest person to be on the dressage World Class Development Programme, which looks for Olympic hopefuls and combinations. Only ten people are selected from the whole of Great Britain at each level so it is a huge achievement to be on the programme. They fund you for the competitions training and give you the knowledge you need.”
While other teenagers are celebrating the end of their courses over the summer, Gaby is still focusing on her training five times a week. She trains at home with international dressage rider Mette Assouline, who was long listed for the Olympics, and with Erik Theilgaard through the World Class Programme. Sue Tracey – who runs the Equine Sports Therapy degree at the College – is the home team Physiotherapist for Laurentius.
Gaby said: “Every training session you have got to be strict with yourself – ‘will it be good enough for a test?’ I haven’t got an indoor arena so if it’s raining I have to think of somewhere out there where I can train. You have to be in the right mind set.
“I can’t put everything into it now as the Olympics are four years away. The winning Olympic team are still running this year and it’s hard to compete against people who are 45-50 with so much experience but I have to take it in steps; the Olympics are obviously my aim.”
In 2011, Gaby came sixteenth in the Pony Europeans and fourth in Poland. She has competed in a further five international on another horse, Top Star, a 14.2hh Palomino Westfalen gelding.
Her second horse is Zante, a seven-year-old Jazz cross Fleming, 17.2hh, who she hopes to take to Grand Prix level.
As well as Swarovski, she is sponsored by CLP Insurance, Buttons Farm in Orsett – for her hay and haylage - Ani Mate as well as being supported by Naf – Global Herbs and Essex Animal Feeds.
In the short term, like any 17-year-old Gaby is preparing for the start of university at Writtle – but her dressage ambitions are never far away: “When I am competing internationally there is not always a physio available. Through doing this degree at Writtle, I will learn about biomechanics and equine sports therapy so if the horse is stiff I can massage that area myself.”