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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Lookout Olympians, here comes Avril and Bella

ABOVE: Avril Charman and Bella soaring at Melbourne 3DE this year. Picture: TAZZIE EGGINS

JUST 20 years ago, most riders in Olympic eventing teams were men and it was difficult for a woman to gain a place. Now, women are not only making teams but they are shoulder-to-shoulder with the blokes on performances, with some very young, ambitious and talented female riders making their presence felt in the sport.

One of these is Avril Charman, aged 16 and in Year 10 at Haileybury in Victoria but she’s already tasting success at three-day events.

Earlier this month riding her 14-year-old part Welsh mare, Bella, she won at the Melbourne International Three-Day Event at Werribee Park in the junior two-star level.

Avril began riding when she was three years old and like most horse- mad children from horse-mad families, by the time she was in prep, she was already competing.

“I’ve always been around horses because my parents are both vets and mum also grew up with horses,” Avril said. “She helped my older brother and sister and me to learn how to ride.

“All three disciplines in eventing – dressage, show jumping and cross country – must be perfected and that takes time and a lot of effort, which is why most people I compete against tend to be older than me.”

Avril rides her two horses, Bella and Hamish, four-to-six times a week.

“Juggling school and horse riding can be difficult but I fit everything in with help from my family and teachers,” she said.

“Having two horses in competitive work is also made easier by Mum who rides with me when I have a lot of schoolwork to do.”

Her equine partner in the win at Werribee, Bella, is a 14-year-old chestnut mare that stands just 14.3 hands high.

ABOVE: A proud moment for Avril Charman and Bella at Melbourne this year.

“She is a Welsh cross Thoroughbred who was bred at the Hillswood stud in Buln Buln by Linda Hills,” Avril said.

“Bella is such a fun and loving pony that always tries her hardest know matter what she is doing.”

After being sold to Nina Clarke and then onto the Tivendale’s, Bella competed up to one-star with Georgia and was highly successful.

Avril was just 11 when the family bought Bella and the pair started out in pony club grade four.

“As time went by, we began to become a team and to move up the levels,” she said.

“We were able to represent Victoria in not only eventing but also show jumping. We had our first two-star at Werribee horse trials last year where we finished 10th overall with zero jumping penalties.

“After this event, our dream of competing at Melbourne started.”

After a lot of hard work, the pair managed to qualify for this year’s 3DE.

“Although our dressage is usually our weak link, Bella performed outstandingly to score 29.4 penalties and be in the lead,” Avril said.

“We then went clear cross country with good time. Bella was extremely fit, which she showed out on course as we jumped around Werribee Mansion.

“We then headed into show jumping with the lead. Bella’s seamless recovery after her 3.8km course the previous day allowed us to jump a clear round.

“It was such an amazing moment to see all our months of hard work pay off, which was truly rewarding. I am so proud of her.”

Avril enjoys being part of the eventing community and she has been supported and encouraged by people she has met through pony club, interschool competition and the Haileybury Equestrian Team.

While her career path isn’t yet planned out, Avril hopes to keep riding and competing while completing a university degree.

“My dream for equestrian would be to compete overseas and produce horses to a high level,” she said.

“Most of all though, I just enjoy being with the horses.”

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