Olympic Aspirations for Rising Stars
Last Sunday (15.3.09) your correspondent went to Addington Manor Equestrian Centre in Buckinghamshire specifically to see a fifteen year old riding her part-bred Cleveland Bay horse in the Winter Championships of Dressage Under 21s UK. Samantha Thurman-Baker, currently one of the top five junior riders in the country, was entered in two classes and she won both - convincingly. The first was an FEI Junior Team test before judges Ms Judy Firmiston-Williams (who is also Chief Selector for British Junior Teams) and Mrs Maureen Newell in which she scored 69.73%. The second was the Advanced Test 100. In front of judges Lady Inchcape and Mrs Debbie Wardle, Sam gained a mark of 71.56%, ten ahead of her nearest rival.
Samantha and her horse Spring Pascal are an unusual but hugely impressive combination. Sam began riding before she could walk and grew up on the family Stud farm near Henley on Thames. From an early age she rode the Stud’s Lusitano stallions and learnt to perform the specialist Grand Prix movements. Now, when not at school, Samantha has a hands-on role in the yard helping mother Diane with training the stud horses and liveries. When, two years ago, Samantha took the step-up from ponies to first horse, limited funds meant there was no prospect of an experienced and expensive schoolmaster. Instead she chose Spring Pascal who is by Hanoverian stallion Pascal out of the Cleveland Bay mare Springtime Girl (by Penrhyn Gladiator out of Knaresborough Springtime). At the time Pascal was an immature and sensitive five year old, very much an unknown. The gamble has paid off and the family now realize they bought a potential superstar. Two years on with a sympathetic dedication Samantha and Pascal are progressing in a perfect partnership. They train regularly with Damian Hallam and have lessons with Carl Hester plus additional support from Ferdi Eilberg.
From a promising start in 2007 the combination performed consistently throughout 2008 being well placed and winning several championships. They went to Wicklow in Ireland as members of the winning Under 21s Junior Team where Sam was also an individual winner. Samantha and Pascal took part in the BYRDS National Training programme. After two days of intensive assessment with List 1 International Candidate Judge and Chief Selector Judy Harvey, they were invited to join the top five Junior Riders in the UK. It is little wonder that Samantha is intent on a career in dressage. Her immediate goal is to compete successfully in FEI Junior and Young Rider classes. Beyond that she is aiming for Grand Prix level and hopes to represent her country in international competitions. Ultimately there is a vision of the Olympics. I have a feeling that this is not a mirage.
Samantha aspires to go to the very highest levels of her chosen discipline. Given her record to date and the endorsements from a galaxy of top riders and trainers she has the potential. But aspirations like these do not come cheap! Currently Sam and her team are seeking some serious and significant sponsorship to enable her to compete at the highest level both at home and abroad. This quietly spoken and reserved (but not shy) teenager is headed for the top and she will be demonstrating to a whole new generation the versatility and potential of the Cleveland Bay Sporthorse. They deserve our support. If you know of any prospective sponsors please get in touch with Diane or Samantha at the Turville Valley Stud, Turville, Henley on Thames, Oxon. RG9 6QU; telephone: 01491 638 598; email: [email protected] Below are two pictures of this talented pair taken on 9th April at Hartpury in Gloucestershire.
A Winning Combination - Samantha Thurman-Baker riding
CB Sporthorse Spring Pascal in the Winter Dressage Championships at Hartpury on 9th April 2009
What happened next? Find out by going to Magazine Page 16 which has an illustrated report of Samantha and Spring Pascal's progress through to September 2009.