The King George V equestrian team is champing at the bit for the HKEF Inter-school Equestrian Challenge finals

The King George V equestrian team is champing at the bit for the HKEF Inter-school Equestrian Challenge finals

Ranked number one going into the finals, the King George V team wants to match the success of their former members

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The KGV team (from left) Annabel Dyson, Yu An Su, Nathan Chan and Rachel Mason.
The KGV team (from left) Annabel Dyson, Yu An Su, Nathan Chan and Rachel Mason.
Photo: Edmond So/SCMP

The final round of this year's HKEF Inter-school Equestrian Challenge is just around the corner. King George V School is determined to continue their tradition of success, and reclaim the title they held in 2013.

The Challenge is divided into two divisions. In the higher division, riders aged 12 to 16 must complete a preliminary dressage test and finish a course with jumps up to 80cm high.

Riders aged between 10 and 14 are eligible for the lower division and must complete the preliminary dressage test and a course with 50cm-high jumps.

After the heats in February and March, KGV is ranked first in the higher division and is one of four teams to advance to the finals.

KGV's teacher-in-charge of the equestrian team, David Grady, is optimistic. "We will have a new combination in the higher division team this year. We'll rely on the more experienced members to share their knowledge about the horses we will ride."

Nathan Chan and Yu An Su, both 15, have previously competed in the higher division, and are the more experienced members of the team. Rounding out the four-rider team are 13-year-olds Rachel Mason and Annabel Dyson, who were in the lower division last year.

"We are randomly assigned the horses for the competition. We will then allocate the most suitable horses to our riders. That's when Yu An and Nathan's experience comes in," says Grady.

In the Challenge, riders have to compete in both dressage and showjumping for team and individual prizes. The scores of the top three riders will count towards their team's score. In dressage, often described as "horses performing ballet", the rider and horse work together to perform a series of choreographed movements. In showjumping, the rider takes the horse through a series of jumps as quickly as possible.

"I think dressage is something fundamental. The better you get at it, the better you can actually get in jumping. There is a correlation between the two," says Year 10 student Yu An.

"In dressage, you need to know how to control the horse; it is more technical and you have to get everything right," says Rachel, a Year Nine student, when asked to compare the two categories. "Jumping might seem a bit more dangerous. You're not thinking that much, you just jump over it."

Nathan, who is in Year 10 and a member of the Hong Kong junior team, adds: "Sometimes you've got to accept the fact that you'll fall. If you're tensed up, your horse will feel the same. So be courageous. When you fall, keep smiling and go again."

Along with the potential for danger, the riders face other challenges, such as finding the right horses and the time to train, as well as the remoteness of the riding school - but they don't mind.

"Horse riding is my life. It is challenging with the horses sometimes, but it is fun when you build up skills with them," says Year Eight student Annabel. "It makes me stronger as a rider, and as a girl." In fact, the sport offers a rare opportunity for both boys and girls to compete together.

"We are a relatively young team and we get a mix of genders. We are trying to encourage that," explains Lee Grady, another teacher-in-charge of the team.

"Some schools tend to attract more girls but we always have boys in our team. This is wonderful because even at the Olympic level, it's a sport in which both genders can compete against each other. That's unique."

In the run-up to Hong Kong's co-hosting of the 2008 Beijing Olympics equestrian events, KGV encouraged the development of their school team. As one of the first schools to have a team, they are proud to have advanced to the finals of the Challenge every year since the team was established in 2007.

"We are very much a family team. Three of the members here have their elder siblings riding for the team, they are following their prestigious traditions," says David Grady. "Parents, riders and the school are all supportive. We are lucky."

This year's higher division final will be held on May 9 at Lo Wu Saddle Club. The winning team will get to spend a week at the prestigious Ingestre Stables in Britain.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
KGV riders going for gold

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