RISING Borders equestrian star Henny Cooper was delighted when she and her sturdy steed Muirsland Dowrie were long-listed to represent Great Britain on the junior event squad.
So imagine how the 17-year-old Kelso High School pupil felt on learning that she would be mentored by none other than top New Zealand eventer Caroline Powell.
Ecstatic is the answer to that one.
Henny told TheSouthern: “It’s been great having Caroline as my mentor. I have followed her career a bit and she has helped me a lot since we started the programme.”
A member of the Buccleuch Pony Club, Henny is in the middle of her highers – she is sitting three – but the school is letting her out for GB training and the various trial competitions she has to take part in, culminating at the Glanusk Horse Trials in June to select the final team that will travel to Portugal to take part in the upcoming junior championships.
Henny added: “It has not been easy trying to fit in my training with my school work, but the school has been great and has allowed me to train and given me study time as well.
“Hopefully, I can repay everyone for their help by doing well at both the exams and the trials.”
And, since teaming up with Caroline, the youngster certainly feels up to the task.
“We have done some jumping together and a bit of dressage as well. Dowrie has improved so much because we found out that the saddle was wrong, while other things such as not using my reins as much and using my legs more have helped Dowrie move and jump better. I feel a definite improvement.
“I feel I can go through to the trials now with more confidence and we are looking forward to going out and giving it a real go.”
Both Henny and Caroline enjoyed success last weekend when taking part in the Central Scotland Horse Trials in the beautiful setting of Scone Palace, Perthshire.
Competing over the Ian Stark-built course, Henny notched two top spots, the first in the BE100 under-18s event riding Kilworth Full Moon, but, more importantly, the second win of the day came in the open novice under-18 qualifier, riding her own Muirsland Dowrie. Caroline took the Novice Section I on Ustinov Van Elsenham.
The mentor programme is one of the competition and education schemes that form part of British Eventing’s Under-18 strategy and is designed to provide riders and horses with help and support both at home and in competition.
A regular at Floors Horse Trials, Caroline divides her time between her home and business at Kelso and her riding base down south, so was an ideal choice for local lass Henny.
Caroline told us: “We were asked to join the programme by British Eventing and, to be honest, it’s been nice to be able to put something back into the sport.
“It’s a great idea because it gives these guys a bit of support. We are looking out for the welfare of the horses as well and making sure everything is right, and we have been able to identify common mistakes and work with the riders to rectify them.”
Henny and Dowrie have been training with Caroline at her Kelso base at Springwood Park for the last few months, as well as travelling south for GB training with Gill Watson, the junior Great Britain team trainer.
The duo enjoyed a good season in 2010, representing Scotland on the JRN team at the Weston Park Championships in October, where the team came seventh, in their first 1* competition.
Having just turned 17, Henny has this year and next to prove herself on the junior circuit before moving on to the youth section.
Caroline added: “I would have loved to have something like this when I was young. Its all about building for the future, though not just looking to the Europeans this year. It’s really about the bigger picture and getting these riders and horses prepared for a fantastic future of eventing.
“Henny has a really good opportunity to do well and hopefully I can help her achieve her goals.”