George’s Ranch has a great reputation spanning 20 years as a must-visit tourist attraction – thanks to the hacks we offer along the stunning Sea Caves coastline – but in recent years it is our riders who have pulled in the plaudits thanks to their success in the country’s national shows.
Thanks to their hard work and dedication, our riders have been crowned Children’s Champions in both dressage and jumping as well in the junior and senior classes. And last year, when Cyprus won the prestigious FEI World Dressage Challenge, the top qualifying equestrians all came from George’s Ranch.
Therefore, to thank our Ranchers for the heart and determination they have shown over the years – and in the hope it might also inspire other riders to follow their dreams – every now and again we will turn the spotlight on one of our riders, and I can think of no better start than the current FEI Children’s Pancyprian Champion, our very own Imogen.
When Imogen first came to visit us six years ago, she was an enthusiastic, horse-crazy eight-year-old. However, following lessons at a school in which there were 10 riders to a class, Imogen’s enthusiasm far outweighed her riding ability and the first thing we did was put her back on the lunge. For trainers, the lunge is a great aid that allows us to control the horse while teaching novice riders. It is also useful for more experienced riders who need to correct any bad habits they might have picked up in regard to position and the use of the aids. Ordinarily, there will only be a couple of lessons on the lunge before a rider has the knowledge and confidence to ride alone, and this was the case with Imogen.
Once Imogen had mastered the art of walk-trot-canter-trot-walk, it was perhaps inevitable, given her enthusiasm, that she would set her sights higher. So Imogen took our fabulous pony Tennessee on loan and learned to jump – with mixed results.
Clearly, Imogen’s riding ability not only progressed over the years, but it progressed to national competition level, and it was her work ethic and attitude that played a large part in that success. Right from the start, Imogen always took care of the horses she rode. Basic riding ability will only take you so far in this world, whereas developing a good relationship with your horse can take you further than you ever thought possible. But developing that connection takes hard work and commitment, and the higher you go in this sport, the more committed you have to be. Imogen had that commitment in droves, yet she had to work harder than some pupils simply because of her body shape and her ever-increasing height. As Imogen has quite a long back to go with those super long legs, she has had to work hard on her position and balance whereas pupils with shorter backs have a more rider-friendly centre of gravity. Imogen has also grown very tall, very quickly, over the past couple of years, which meant she needed to almost constantly address issues of balance. This has resulted in some tough phases in her training. However, another great attribute Imogen has, is that she attacks each lesson like a soldier. She doesn’t give up, she takes every criticism on board and she works incredibly hard to correct her mistakes.
Once it became clear, that riding was much more than a weekend hobby for Imogen, it was decided she was ready for her own horse – and I travelled to Bulgaria to find her the very talented show jumping warmblood, Tsutsi. It was a match made in heaven, but it was also a match that needed time and work. Therefore, whilst Imogen trained and competed on Tsutsi she continued to hone her dressage skills on our own talented horses, Rocket Robin and Lily Milan. In fact, it was a superb piece of riding on Lily Milan that saw Imogen crowned Children’s Champion earlier this year.
Although Imogen will face new challenges in the future as she progresses within the competition circuit, I am sure she will continue to surprise and delight us all, and I look forward to watching her ride to success on her very talented young mare, Tsutsi.