Busy year ahead as Alison takes first step on World Class plan

BOTH her parents have competed internationally in show-jumping and now Alison Barton is following in the family tradition.

The 18-year-old from Wilsden, Bradford was recently selected by the British Equestrian Federation for its World Class Development Programme.

This is a major step up for Alison and recognition of her talent and potential. Her parents, Richard and Janet, are delighted but realise there is going to be a lot of hard work ahead.

Both rode on senior Nations Cup teams and when Alison was growing up they were determined not to push her into competing.

Her first pony when she was very young, Bobo, came on loan from John Whitaker.

This was followed by a 13.2hh pony that Alison learned to ride on and gain confidence and she began to enter small competitions.

After a while, it became obvious that riding was going to be her passion and when she was 14, her headmistress at Bradford Girls Grammar School allowed her to attend school part time so that she could concentrate on her riding.

"We didn't want her to compete when she was younger because we wanted to make sure she was keen and had the commitment," said Janet. "She proved to us that she really wanted to do it."

Being accepted onto the World Class Development Programme involves a fairly daunting interview followed by the rider going through their paces on horseback in front of Rob Hoekstra, World Class Show-jumping performance manager and the manager of Britain's show-jumping team.

"When we heard Alison had been accepted onto the pre-start part of the development programme we could hardly believe it," said Janet.

"Her horse, Verlindo, is unruly. He's highly strung and young but he has a lot of scope. So they must have seen that she's determined and that he has the ability."

This group of young riders, who include George Whitaker, have already had their first training session. Since returning home from that, Alison has been laid low with flu this week but hopes to be back on her feet as soon as possible.

She competed at the Junior European Championships in 2009 and at the British Open Show-jumping Championships in Belgium last year where she rode Saffier Van de Brandkreek, otherwise known as Herbie, who has been one of her top rides.

Alison now has the backing of five owners, including the owner of Verlindo, Giles Moonie. "She's slowly building a good string and is riding about eight horses at the moment," said Janet.

Life is hectic for the whole family. Richard is still competing as well as teaching and Janet works as an equine physiotherapist as well as driving Alison to events and now training sessions.

Five Yorkshire riders were among those selected for the show-jumping section of the World Class Development Programme.

They include Joe Clayton, Dan Nielson, Matt Sampson and George and William Whitaker.

"This is recognition for the hard work they have done and they have proved that they are worth the commitment and time that the programme will involve," said Janet.

A busy year lies ahead for them all. And next on Alison's list is the very practical matter of taking her HGV test.

Charity now seeking new pastures for rescue pony Dolly

COULD you give a home to Dolly, a pony that had a terrible start in life but is now fully recovered from her ordeal?

The 13.2hh piebald mare was taken in by World Horse Welfare as a yearling at their farm in Blackpool, following a call from a member of the public.

The charity's field officer found her with a head collar embedded into her face. This had been left on has she had grown and had tightened so much it had to be surgically removed.

The pony gradually recuperated but then faced another operation to have her ovaries removed.

Now fully recovered and trained, she is ready to find a new home as a hack. She is just five years old and not a novice ride but would suit an experienced rider who would like a pony to hack out.

"Dolly is far happier hacking out than doing school work – she has been introduced to traffic and enjoys being ridden out in company around the farm," said Sally Smith, of WHW.

There is more information about horses and ponies available to loan at www.worldhorsewelfare.org.

Badsworth hunting for new members

IF you have ever wondered about going hunting but are not quite sure what is involved, the Badsworth & Bramham Moor hunt are keen to welcome newcomers.

They have organised a special newcomers' day at Bramham Park next Saturday, February 5.

There are many questions people would like to ask about what happens and hunt secretary Jenny Tomlinson Walsh says they are happy to provide information before the day.

Here, she answers some of the most frequent queries:

Do I need to gallop everywhere and jump huge jumps? "No. Newcomers' days are designed to welcome riders and horses who haven't hunted before. All jumps are optional and there will be riders who prefer to go at a steadier pace."

Does my horse need to be ultra fit? "Your horse should be reasonably fit but you can stop and go home at any time you or your horse feel tired – you don't have to stay out all day."

Will I need to be insured? "Yes, you will need third-party liability insurance which you may already have as part of your horse insurance. But please check the policy details to make sure it includes hunting."

What should I wear? "Riders wear black, dark blue or tweed coats. Only the senior members and hunt staff traditionally wear 'red coats' so they can be easily seen from a distance."

Is not hunting illegal? "No. All hunts are very careful to work within the restrictions of the Hunting Act 2004."

Is it very expensive? "The annual subscriptions can cost about the same as for membership of a health club. However, there are also many alternative options available and schemes to match most budgets."

If you are worried about what to do on the day, the Badsworth and Bramham Moor have a "buddy" system whereby newcomers can be paired with an experienced rider.

For more information about the newcomers' day call 07977 627128 or email jj@jjtomlinson.f9.co.uk or go to www.bbmh.co.uk.

CW 29/1/11