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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Young guns hot on the heels of Australia's elite riders

ABOVE: Sam Jeffree is at 63 in the FEI rankings. Picture: DEREK O’LEARY

WHEN we look at the Australian teams competing for us at the Olympics and world championships, older riders feature prominently.

Fair enough, because with age comes experience, but times are changing and many other country’s Olympic teams are far younger than ours.

Equestrian is one of the few sports that you will find a wide spread of ages and talented older riders, like Andrew Hoy at 64 who is still fit and has quality performance horses, are hard to displace.

But in all Olympic disciplines, there is beginning to be a changing of the guard.

Eventers Shenae Lowings at 27 and Hazel Shannon, 29, made it to the team for the FEI World Championships, but there will be room for more soon with talented and ambitious youngsters already showing their hand.

Oliver Barrett at 19 is already listed on the FEI rankings at 275 and his win in the three-star at the Adelaide championships recently was impressive.

Sam Jeffree, 25, ranked 63 at the April FEI rankings, runs his own professional stable.

Sophia Hill, 26, is another who has made performance horse training her life, and put in a super ride at the Adelaide five-star class with Humble Glory. The 2022 Victorian Young Event Rider of the Year, Edward Darby, 21, is another to watch.

Even younger are Molly Lines, 18, who has had an outstanding year with the quaintly named Tadpole, and Tasmanian Chloe Daun, 15, who is only being held back due to age restrictions preventing her from riding in higher-level events.

ABOVE: Molly Lines and Tadpole. Picture: DEREK O'LEARY

In showjumping, Jacob Wells is based with Edwina Tops Alexander starting her young horses and there’s a huge depth of talent with Amelia Douglas, Maddie Sinderberry, Jake Hunter, Kate Hinschen, Izzy Stone, Zoe Balfour Brown and Paige Jardine. With the right backing and horse all could ride for their country at elite level.

Zoe Balfour Brown and Paige Jardine get their first international team ride at the CSIO5* Nations Cup competition to be held in Vancouver, Canada.

The opportunities are there for even the youngest, and Harley McNaughton at 13 has ridden in competitions in New Zealand and heads to Mexico next month to ride in the children’s section of the Global Amateur Tour.

Simone Pearce, 31, has already claimed a place on the Australian dressage team at the 2020 Olympic Games, and looking down the list of Australia’s young riders, William Matthew, Jayden Brown, Jemma Heran, Mary Warren and Tanisha Ryan are all beginning to make claims on team positions.

The young rider and junior classes at big dressage events are filled with very good young riders and classes like the Aachen Challenge at Dressage With The Stars gives them amazing opportunities.

ABOVE: Jessica Dertell aboard Kilimanjaro. Picture: ONE-EYED FROG

This year’s winner, Jessica Dertell, is leaving for overseas this week with her mother.

Jessica, 18, is ranked 20th on the youth dressage FEI rankings and will ride Gladstone MH in Germany’s Youth Nations Cup, hoping to get to Aachen.

The established Australian representatives need to start looking over their shoulders.

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