Early Christmas present for top Olympia stars

NICOLA WILSON received an unexpectedly early Christmas present in front of a packed crowd at the Royal International Horse Show, Olympia.

She was one of four leading riders to be presented with medals of honour by the British Equestrian Federation.

Dressage rider Laura Bechtolsheimer, vaulter Joanne Eccles, Nicola and para-equestrian dressage rider Sophie Wells were awarded medals for outstanding achievements in their respective disciplines. All had returned from the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky with medals.

Brendan Murray, the farrier for the British eventing team, along with Corinne Bracken, coach for the children, junior and young rider showjumping teams, also received medals.

Nicola, who lives near Northallerton, has been a member of the senior eventing squad since 2009.

She was part of the gold medal winning eventing team at the World Equestrian Games and has forged an impressive partnership with Opposition Buzz, bred by Rosemary Search.

"It was very unexpected and a lovely surprise," said Nicola, who received the medal after the eventing team took part in a victory parade at Olympia. "I feel very honoured and privileged to receive something like this, especially when you are doing something you are passionate about and love. And it's all thanks to Opposition Buzz."

Laura Bechtolsheimer received her medal after a thrilling end to the season with a win at Olympia in the Grand Prix Special. She has broken British records and personal bests this season as well as winning a team and two individual silver medals at the World Equestrian Games.

Joanne Eccles, 21, is the first British vaulter to win individual gold medals at both European and world level. She and her sister, Hannah, have notched up eight British Pas de Deux Championship wins, most recently winning silver at the Open European Championship in Austria.

Sophie Wells made her senior team debut at 19, winning triple gold with team, individual and freestyle medals at the Euopean para-dressage Championships.

This year she became world champion in the Grade 1V individual and freestyle classes at the World Equestrian Games.

Corinne Bracken has taken riders from Pony Club through to senior Nations Cup level and riding club teams through to the national finals. She was Chef d'Equipe for the gold medal winning European showjumping team at this year's Open European Championship in Austria.

Brendan Murray has been the British senior eventing team farrier since 1992 and has been at five Olympic and World Equestrian Games and nine European Championships.

There were celebrations at Olympia too for Sue Hughes, whose Dartmoor stallion Pumphill Buckthorn completed an amazing 2010 season by winning the National Pony Society/Baileys Horse feeds supreme ridden title.

The stallion has won some of the top prizes in showing over the past few seasons including the Mountain and Moorland Ridden Championship at the Horse of the Year Show in October.

Pumphill Buckthorn was bred by David Hinde of Aberford out of Pumphill Belladonna, a former HOYS Cuddy overal supreme in-hand winner.

Natural horsemanship duo, Pat and Linda Parelli, will be travelling to the UK in April for a two-day Parelli Celebration at the LG Arean in Birmingham. The event will focus on what they describe as an industry breakthrough, Horsenality, which is a way of identifying the individual character of horses.

"Horsenality makes it possible for everyday people to read horses like the masters do," said Linda.

The Parelli Celebration will be held on April 9 and 10. To book tickets go to www.theticketfactory.com or call 0844 581 0825. For info go to www.parelli.com or call 0800 0234 813.