FORMER Wellington School student Taggy Forester-Bennet is hoping to represent Great Britain at the 2017 FEI Young Rider European Championships in Ireland next month.

The 20-year-old, from Devon, is one of 11 competitors named on the GB Young Rider squad long list, from which six will be selected to ride in Millstreet, Ireland, from July 19 to 23.

Forester-Bennet attended Wellington School right through her education, and it had a profound effect on her equestrian career.

She said: “I was stuck on a horse before I could even walk... it was the only way to keep me quiet!

“I actually started eventing through [Wellington School’s] One Day events, when I was about 13.

“The pony I had at the time was a showjumper, but went well on the flat, so my trainer suggested we had a go at eventing.

“I won the Blundells ODE three years running, as an individual and also as part of the Wellington School team.

“This was what drove me to go up a level and event nationally with British Eventing.”

She added that, for a non-equine school, Wellington has had considerable success with its riding teams – indeed the school qualified for the NSEA (National Schools Equestrian Association) Championships this year.

But her own highlight of her time in the school riding team?

“Any time we beat Millfield in a team riding event, as we rarely beat them at other sports!”

Speaking of other sports, that’s what Forester-Bennet revelled in at the school.

“I’d much rather have been outside than in the classroom, so I threw myself into anything I could,” she said.

“My favourite was athletics, especially high jump and hurdles... I also spent a lot of time swimming, playing netball, hockey, rounders and doing the school’s CCF activities.

“[But] much against the sports coaches’ preference, riding has always been my number one priority.”

After spending three years working at a successful event yard in south Wales, she wanted to set up something similar in the South West – a competition yard in Sheldon, Devon.

“It’s almost been a year now, and the response has been amazing,” she said.

“I’ve had a great amount of interest from people wanting their horses schooled or people wanting riding lessons once or twice a week.

I really enjoy training horses and helping to develop people as riders.

“I am so competitive, so I feel a great deal of satisfaction when they go out and do well.”

As well as training horses, she made her first international sale (to Florida, USA) in May, and she hopes to widen her catalogue.

At the end of this month, though, she will be at a training camp for the GB Under-21 squad – at Aston-Le-Walls, Northamptonshire (June 28-29).

“We will be having Dressage, Showjumping and Cross Country training from the best coaches in Great Britain.

“I can’t wait – the experience they have to pass on is so valuable, it will be a fantastic experience for me.”

They then move to a final trial at the Great Witchingham International in Norfolk, with Forester-Bennet and her 17-year-old mare Bonza Moorabinda aiming to make the final four to go to Ireland.

She added: “I have competed in a few home International events at 1* and 2* level, and I rode in my first 3* last season in Ireland at Ballindenisk International Horse Trials.

“It is such an honour to wear the Union Jack on my saddle cloth, and I hope it’s not too long before I get to represent Great Britain again!”