The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) has inducted the next squad of athletes onto the 2017-2019 England Excel Talent Programme.
Selected from the Olympic and Paralympic equestrian disciplines, 29 athletes were invited to Solihull Riding Club on 17 October and welcomed onto the Programme by the BEF Pathways team, joined by inspirational key note speakers.
David Hamer, Head of Performance Pathways, posed the question, “What is Talent?” He challenged the riders to think about how high level success is achieved and whether ‘Talent’ is something that people are born with, or is a result of natural ability that had been well practised until it had become a skill? He also gave an overview of the different aspects of the talent pathway and how Excel can support them and their home teams on their performance journey.
Sally Kettle, a professional adventurer who became the first woman to row the Atlantic Ocean from East to West, gave an animated and lively account of her two Atlantic attempts, the first time with her mother as her second crew member. Her key messages outlined the need to rise to a challenge and not let barriers get in the way: “you have an end goal so control what you can control to achieve it”.
Riders were all briefed on anti-doping rules and regulations before being introduced to their coaches and mentors who will be helping them on their journey throughout the cycle.
The final presentation of the day came from Catrin Pugh, a 96% burns survivor following a 2013 coach crash in the Alps when she was 19 years-old. An inspirational speaker and ambassador for multiple charities, Catrin emphasised the need to have hope, and talked openly about how she had used her natural resilience to get her life back on track, leading her to take a different path than she had previously envisaged.
Hope Hayward, a para-equestrian dressage athlete who is returning to the Programme said: “It was a very informative day with some fantastic stories from the speakers. Being on the Excel Programme has made me much more organised and it is great to have so much support from the Excel team as they have helped to outline my goals and they are always available to help when I need it.”
David Hamer added: “We were impressed by the high standard of applications we had for this year’s re-focused programme and we are thrilled for the athletes that have been chosen. Former Excel riders have already gone on to achieve success at senior Championships and our mission is to continue that success by supporting riders to reach the top level of equestrian sport.”
The Excel Programme, funded by Sport England, seeks to identify, support and develop riders and horses that demonstrate talent and potential in the Olympic and Paralympic equestrian disciplines. The Programme has been developed to extend the rider talent pathway below the UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme and to help support riders to go on to achieve their potential.