Pony European Champion Georgina Herrling Tells All

The recent European Eventing Championships for Ponies was a roaring success, with France winning gold, while Great Britain picked up silver and Ireland clinched team bronze. The event, held this year in Kaposvá, Hungary, is a platform for talented pony riders aged 12-16. With jumping challenges at around 1.10 meters, it’s an FEI-level contest that helps young riders develop a greater knowledge of the sport of eventing, helping to further their riding careers.

The silver-medal winning British team, sponsored by Charles Owen, at the European Eventing Championships for Ponies in Hungary, 2017.

Britain’s Georgina Herrling clinched individual gold, making her the Pony European Champion, on an impressive dressage score of 40.9 penalties. She was riding the 8-year-old SF Detroit, or Troy, an 8-year-old German-bred Stallion.

“Dressage day was my favourite day at the Europeans,” the 14-year-old rider recalls. “Usually I enjoy cross country the most, but Troy gave me such an amazing feeling that day, and really loved the atmosphere.

“I have always loved dressage, and have always focused on it; I think it is by far the most important part of riding.  This is probably because my mum was a dressage rider growing up, so she was always very keen on getting the dressage perfect.

“I train with Amy O’Connor, Austin’s O’Connor’s wife, as well as Ian Woodhead and Jonquil Hemmings. My favorite dressage movement is definitely medium trot; Troy loves to show off his moves, and there’s no better feeling than doing medium trot across the arena.”

British rider Georgina Herrling and SF Detroit clinched individual gold at the 2017 Pony Europeans. Photo by Helen-Revington.

The schoolgirl is a pupil at St. Helen’s and St. Katherine’s Independent Girls’ School in Oxfordshire, UK, but she’s relaxed about the response she will get from her peers on her return to school after the summer break, having clichéd both gold and silver medals.

“There have been some great riders at my school, including Rebecca Bell who won European Pony medals, and there are always lots of school equestrian teams that you can get involved in; it’s really a great place. I’ve been told some of my teachers where watching me live at the Euros, and that’s always very exciting.”

The phenomenal SF Detroit

The phenomenal SF Detroit has a pretty high-intensity training regime. “We have fantastic facilities at our disposal at Attington Stud,” Georgina says. “He goes to the gallops once every week, gets hacked two or three times a week, gets schooled the rest of the days, and then has an event or training on the weekend.”

The gold medallist says Troy maintains the upper hand at the yard. “Seeing as he is a stallion, everyone at the yard needs to be careful when handling him; he does get quite excited, especially around his favorite pony — my grey mare Ardeo Bannow Silver Zulu.

“He needs to be in a field away from others, and can’t come too close to other horses because of his excitement; but generally is a good boy. Troy is insanely sweet and loving and follows me around when I’m clearing the arena or going past his field; we have a really good bond, but he is very cheeky and likes to sometimes have a good trot on the spot, to show his excitement, or to bite his lead rope.

“He hates not having to do anything, if he’s in the field too long, he gallops laps until we take him in, and giving him more than two days off is never a good idea. Getting back on him after his holiday from the Europeans, he galloped off and decided to act like he was at a rodeo! He tries his hardest to please, which I think was clearly shown at the Europeans.”

Georgina Herrling says the talented Troy always tries his hardest to please. Photo by Helen Revington.

A top team

EN was excited to know how it felt to win individual gold, as well as a team medal; and Georgina is quick to praise the whole team and its support network. “The moments [realising I was first individually, and that GB came second as a team] were at the same time; I landed over the last jump and I heard the crowd and my team behind me, and all I could think about was how much Troy had done for me, and how far we had come, and that the team had done it,” she says joyously.

“I received so much support from everyone in the team, and I definitely could not have done it without every single one of them; they where unbelievably supportive and made sure I kept focused, and they helped me when I got nervous. I wanted Team GB to get a medal more than I wanted a medal for myself; we had all done so well that week, and they’re all incredible riders. It meant so much to everyone to stand on that podium together, and it’s a moment I will never forget.

“The silver medal meant the most to me by far, more than becoming Pony European Champion, and of course I am incredibly grateful to have such a fantastic pony that got me to the top of the podium — the amount he tried for me was incredible.”

The British team consisted of Saffie Osborne with Little Indian Feather; Saffron Cresswell and Cuffesgrange Little Ric; Georgina Herrling and SF Detroit, and Connie Gill with Hotshots. Oliver Jackson and Daydream Fourteen, and Molly Faulkner with Sycamore Lad, rode individually for Britain.

The extended network of Britain’s silver medal winning Pony Team at the 2017 Europeans. Photo by G Herrling.

After such a successful 2017, which also included first in the Ponies Open Novice at Barbury International, and sixth in the one-star for Ponies at Withington Manor Horse Trials, Georgina says she’d love to be selected for Britain again next year, providing all goes well again in the early part of the season with Troy.

“After that, I’ll set my aims on getting to the Junior teams. Being on the GB team has been an amazing experience, and I definitely want to do it again.”

Go Eventing.