She started out as a tiny tot on Tennessee and now she’s a week away from entering her first national show jumping competition – it’s our pintsize princess, Melina!
Melina was only four years old when she first came to George’s Ranch in September 2012, and she came to us as a complete beginner. From the start, this serious little girl cut an impressive figure and she quickly proved to be technically good at riding, but she was tiny – really tiny – and for a while this thwarted her ambition because she simply lacked the strength needed to develop those technical skills. Not that it stopped her from enjoying her time with us.
Over the years, Melina has competed in a number of events here and around the island such as in-house shows and fancy dress competitions, but she always competed on the lead rein because we didn’t dare let her loose on her own, she was that little! Of course, Melina has grown up a lot in the past four years. She is a lot stronger and as a result her training has come on in leaps and bounds.
Having begun her riding career on Tennessee, Melina now trains with various ponies as she prepares for her first ever national jumping competition. For most youngsters, this might seem a daunting prospect, but like everything she does, Melina is taking the pressure in her stride. This is Melina’s character, and I have to say her character is well-suited to a sport which can be as hard as it is rewarding.
Now, one of the things that really stands out about Melina is her dedication. You have to be dedicated if you want to progress in this sport; you have to put in the hours and you have to put in the time. But this is something Melina really enjoys and, as far as I know, she has given up her other after-school activities so she can concentrate on her riding.
Another positive is that Melina is really trainable. I can really get after her and give constructive criticism without her taking offence. In that respect, she seems to be quite tough, which is another good quality to have. Melina doesn’t seem to get fazed by things. She is hard working and always tries her best. When something doesn’t go right she wants to fix it. There is never a moment that she doesn’t want to do it, which shows a great work ethic.
But it’s not all about the riding. Melina is also very good with the ponies she trains with. She gets them ready for her lessons, spending quality time with them as she grooms them, tacks them up and showers them afterwards. She works hard on her relationship with them, which is a very sincere aspect of her character that I like. At the moment, Melina rides either Pinto, Spot, Dillon, Roxy or Bobby because it’s good for her training to ride different ponies, but as she gets more into the national shows we will probably partner her with one specific horse that she can build a really good bond with, something that will help her in competitions at a higher level.
While I actually tend to concentrate on higher levels of training these days – because that’s what I do and it’s where my main interest lies – I’ve recently returned to teaching Melina because one of the nicest things about my job is taking a complete beginner and developing their skills and interest in the sport to a more serious level. Without a doubt, it’s an exciting time for this young rider, and I’m thrilled to be part of her journey – a journey which takes a new direction next weekend when Melina enters her first ever national competition, competing under CYEF rules and regulations.
The CYEF is the governing body in Cyprus for equestrian sports. Whereas the other shows that Melina participated in were unaffiliated events – fun shows organised by the island’s clubs – things are now getting serious. For the CYEF shows, Melina has to take a licence test. This is a test to prove she is capable of competing at a national level and it involves a small dressage test and a jumping course. The intent is to ensure that riders are safe, that they have enough control over their horses and ponies, and that they are at a standard capable of competing at a national level.
Of course, Melina has proved time and again that she is more than ready to show the world what she is capable of – including a second place outing in the cross country at Episkopi earlier this year – and we couldn’t be more proud of her at George’s Ranch. This is one young rider we expect great things from over the coming years. So, go, go, go Melina!