Tiny film star heads to Harrogate for showjumping contest

Lilly Aspell, pictured alongside her parents, Donna Aspell and Paddy Aspell, will compete in the Talented Showjumper Competition at this weekend's Yorkshire Vet at Countryside Live in Harrogate. Picture by Richard Walker.
Lilly Aspell, pictured alongside her parents, Donna Aspell and Paddy Aspell, will compete in the Talented Showjumper Competition at this weekend's Yorkshire Vet at Countryside Live in Harrogate. Picture by Richard Walker.
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She has starred in a Hollywood blockbuster and recently finished filming in Serbia for her next big screen role, but for tiny North Yorkshire schoolgirl Lilly Aspell, competing at this weekend’s Yorkshire Vet at Countryside Live is perhaps even more important.

The ten-year-old is one of 39 young equestrians who will be in the spotlight at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate tomorrow as a competitor in the Talented Showjumping Competition and performing under pressure is something that Lilly is getting used to.

Lilly will be riding the family's new pony, Clooncraha Lady, when she takes part in Saturday's heats. The final of the Talented Showjumper Competition is on Sunday.

Lilly will be riding the family's new pony, Clooncraha Lady, when she takes part in Saturday's heats. The final of the Talented Showjumper Competition is on Sunday.

After an unexpected chance to audition as an actress, she was cast in the role of the young Wonder Woman in the DC Comics and Warner Bros feature film that was released in June.

Director Patty Jenkins praised her performance which has seen her go on to earn a supporting role in Holmes and Watson starring Will Ferrell and a more substantial appearance in sci-fi thriller Extinction. Both films are due to be released next year.

However it is showjumping that is Lilly’s first love and her mother, Donna Aspell, told The Yorkshire Post of how her daughter has a very clear plan for the future.

“Being like she is, Lilly tells us she is going to the Olympics - Paris 2024 - and her film appearances are going to pay for it.”

She is a very lucky girl but she works very hard.

Donna Aspell, mother of young showjumper Lilly Aspell

The Aspells live in Richmond and Lilly attends Crakehall Primary School. Her father, Paddy, is a jockey who has won at the Cheltenham Festival and ridden in the Grand National, and so for Lilly, an interest in horses came at a young age. Her calling as an actress came about in the most unexpected of circumstances however.

Mrs Aspell explained: “Lilly and I went for a shopping trip into London, where we were living at the time. We were in a shop on Oxford Street and she put on a hat and sunglasses to be funny, when we were approached by a talent agent who asked her to audition for a film. I was very dubious, as only a mother can be, but we were given a business card and Lilly would not give it up.”

The family relocated to Yorkshire and mother and daughter spent a year travelling back and forth to Warner Bros Studios.

Lilly was given dialect, sword and stunt training before being handed a script.

Former Olympian showjumpers, Tina and Graham Fletcher, will be running the rule over the young entrants as they pick a winner of the Talented Showjumper contest over the weekend.

Former Olympian showjumpers, Tina and Graham Fletcher, will be running the rule over the young entrants as they pick a winner of the Talented Showjumper contest over the weekend.

“All of a sudden we felt we were out of our depth,” her mother said.

“But she did some filming and she took to it like a duck to water. I couldn’t believe it.”

Lilly remains dedicated to showjumping and has attracted sponsorship from New Century Saddlery of Hartlepool and Australia-based Bates Saddles to help fund and equip her during her fledgling competitive career.

“She is a very lucky girl but she works very hard,” Mrs Aspell said.

“We are exceptionally proud of her, both her father and I. I know I’m biased but we can’t believe what a wonderful little person she is.”

BIG CHANCE FOR YOUNG TALENTS

This weekend’s Talented Showjumper contest is a chance to impress high-profile judges, former Olympians Graham and Tina Fletcher, and vie for the prize of training with the pair at their own yard.

Lilly will ride a pony called Clooncraha Lady, only bought from Ireland a week ago.

Mrs Aspell believes the competition is a marvellous opportunity, saying: “There is not much like this competition up north so for northern children who have aspirations and talent, getting the chance to perform on the big stage in front of fabulous people with big credentials is wonderful.”

Read our Yorkshire Vet at Countryside Live preview here and see Monday’s Yorkshire Post for full coverage from the show.