Lily Payne is making huge strides towards achieving her dream after being shortlisted for the prestigious NAF Young Rider, Junior and Children on Horses teams for the European Championships.
The competition will be held in Roosendaal, the Netherlands, between August 9-13.
The 13-year-old, a Boston High School pupil, rides Ann Savage’s 11-year-old mare Beckhouse Cancara (Cara) and is trained by mum Sarah Payne and Daryll Thickitt.
Final team selection will take place at the pre-European Team Camp, beginning on Saturday, with the announcement made on Monday.
Lily found herself sitting on a pony long before she could walk, and being based at the family home at Leverton’s Sheepgate Equestrian has also been inspirational in her dressage dreams.
“The Europeans have been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, and to be short listed is way beyond my expectations,” she said.
“I’ve now got to keep focussed and hope to be selected.”
Having just returned from their first International event for 2017, Lily and Cara competed in the Future Champions Show, where they collected three impressive scores above 70 per cent, including a fifth in the preliminary test on day one, before climbing to fifth in the team test on day two.
The pair then topped their 70 per cent by more than two per cent in the final test, gaining another fourth place.
“Hagen was more than I ever imagined it would be,” Lily added.
“The atmosphere was buzzing and the venue was far beyond what I expected - I just cannot describe it.”
Mum Sarah, a former British pony team member herself, knows all too well the dedication and commitment riding at this level requires.
She said: “Every time I watch Lily I am in awe of how well she handles the atmosphere, pressure and everything else that comes with not just competing here in the UK, but internationally too.
“She rides like someone way beyond her years and sometimes is easy to forget she is only 13.
“I’m exceptionally proud of all the work Lily puts in to training Cara and am keeping my fingers firmly crossed that her European dream happens.”