A TALENTED teenager with a burgeoning ambition to turn the passion she has for her sport into a professional career shone in an event making its debut at Countryside Live.
Stephanie Milner, 17, of Huggate, near York, had already been crowned the carriage driving trials British National Novice Champion before entering the main ring in front of the grandstand at the Harrogate event on Saturday.
Hot on the heels of her national triumph, she was victorious in the North Eastern Driving Trials, riding Josh, her Welsh Cross Hackney Pony, across the finish line in the fastest time.
The event saw riders compete in a race against the clock.
Teams of two rode the four-wheeled carriages and they negotiated their animals through a winding obstacle course at speed. Time deductions were imposed whenever a competitor caused balls balanced on the obstacles to fall to the ground as they passed.
Winner Stephanie Milner had her father Jonny for company. A two-times winner of the British rally driving championships, Mr Milner was riding on the carriage’s back step.
Tara Wilkinson, of Shelf, Halifax, who was a member of the gold medal winning British team at the 2012 World Young Drivers Championship, also lined up for the event and finished a close runner-up, with senior driver Patti Atkinson taking third place.
The top three riders had battled through two rounds, in a wider field of participants to reach the final.
Miss Milner said: “I thought the event went really well. When we were walking round the course to begin with we didn’t think there were enough people in the grandstand watching but it started to fill up and the atmosphere improved.
“The first round I was getting used to the track and in the second round I was the fastest which meant in the final round I was the last to ride.
“I’ve been in that position during the season so I was used to the pressure I was being put under.
“It felt really good to win. Next, I hope to get selected to go to the Young Drivers World Championship and the aim is to turn professional eventually.”
Equestrian events are a popular part of Countryside Live. There were more equine entries at this year’s show than ever before – some 335 entries in total, beating last year’s record of 303.
The winner in another equestrian event, the Coloured Horse and Pony Championship, was Sarah Ambler of Halifax riding Monknash Moonshine, a six-year-old skewbald gelding which she bought three years ago.
“He’s won five championships this year but at a lower level, so this is the first big one,” she said. “He was amazing. I was extremely proud of him.”
The Mountain and Moorland Ridden Section of the show formed qualifiers for the discipline’s London Olympia in December.
Sandra Burton, 46, of Haigh, Wigan, whose day job is working a milk round with her sister and mother as part of the family business, was selected to represent Countryside Live at the event in the capital.
After her win, riding eight-year-old horse Fly the Last Flute, she said: “This is the first Olympia we have tried for this year. We have concentrated on the Horse of the Year Show. We qualified for that in April and took part last week coming ninth.
“The judges today did seem to like him. It was a very strong championship.”