Maddy, 10, youngest rider ever to make final
MOVE over Charlotte Dujardin and Laura Tomlinson, Gloucestershire has a new dressage star.
At the age of just 10, Maddy Whelan is already following in the footsteps of the county's London 2012 Olympic stars.
Currently preparing for the British Dressage National Championships next month, Whelan will be the youngest ever rider to make it through to the championship finals.
She will take to the stage with her trusty horse Mighty Max, a 12'2 pony five years her senior, a horse that has been her riding partner for the past two years.
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And the finals, which will be held in Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire will be the last time that Whelan and Max will compete together before he starts a new life with new owners.
The duo have enjoyed a superb season together, including a strong fourth-place finish at the British Dressage Winter Championships at Elementary Restricted Level at Hartpury in March.
The pair were then given the chance to compete for BYRDS North West on two occasions.
First, Whelan rode at the BYRDS Inter Regionals at Keysoe where she won the C Squad Championships and her team won the overall competition.
Secondly, Whelan rode for England at the Home Internationals as a Pony Medium rider, where she was Reserve Champion and also in the team placed third.
Mum Lorna is suitably proud of her daughter's achievements and has been similarly inspired by the hard work put in by all the compeitors.
She said: As her mum I am obviously really proud of her achievements, but I find the commitment that all these dedicated young riders put into this quite inspirational.
"It's been a lot of hard work for Maddy this year and as she goes into her last year at Eldersfield Lawn junior school she also has to remain focused on doing well there too.
"She has been very fortunate to be able to train with Jackie Beaven for the last 18 months who has taught her to ride in a classical way of going.
"They have developed and built on a great relationship between Maddy and Max.
"Others sponsors have been a great help and in particular Bates Saddles who have given Maddy the opportunity to ride in their new Pony Dressage Saddle.
"I would love to think that Maddy's story could inspire others interested in dressage.
"Organisations like BYRDS and the Dressage Under 21's UK support the young riders in our country and deserve credit for helping riders like Maddy achieve their riding dreams."
Whelan meanwhile prefers to heap most of the praise on her trusty steed Max and admits that competing at the nationals will be the perfect way for the partnership to end.
She said: "The chance to ride a pony as special as Max has been an amazing opportunity and the Nationals will be the best way to finish!
"I will be very sad when he leaves but I will be kept busy riding my new addition to the yard."