Quest: Freya Smith
Freya and Oliver's journey to the Quest National Championships and how being a deaf rider doesn't stop you from achieving your dreams!
It was a match made perfect, Freya Smith came to buy Oliver three years ago, from Preston, as a rising five-year-old to be able to do some jumping, "My previous pony didn’t enjoy jumping and I wanted to get out and have a go at eventing so we were looking for an experienced horse to show me the ropes. A friend came across Oliver’s advert and made my parents go and view him, as soon as I sat on him I knew he was the one, although I would have to rethink my eventing plans for the coming season as there was no chance me taking him eventing anytime soon and I wanted to take things slow with him being young and still green."
The now eight-year-old Appaloosa started dressage within the Pony Club, "I ride for my local pony club Haydock Park, and started competing him at prelim level, he was catching the eye of the judges even with his inexperience."
With lockdown putting plans on hold, the pair did not get out to their first competition until 2020, starting at Novice level, "We qualified for RDA Nationals which would have been held at Hartbury but were virtual due to the pandemic. We won the Grade 6 class and overall class champion representing Nantwich and District RDA. We also qualified for the Pony Club National Dressage competition and was also in the placings."
After being diagnosed with bilateral profound deafness when she was 12 months old, Freya has defied all the odds, "My hearing was so badly affected that I had hardly had any balance, I wasn’t able to walk until I was 2 years old because of it and the specialists said I would struggle to even ride a bike! My balance is still bad enough that I still can’t ride that bike but I can definitely ride a horse!"
Taking everything in their stride they then took the leap to Quest, "One of our most memorable experiences was our Quest journey. We had a young inexperienced team that finished 1st at the Regional Finals at Tushingham whilst Oliver and I finished in second place in the individual competitions, which also qualified us for Nationals."
"The Nationals at Bury Farm was amazing although our preparations in the two weeks leading up to it didn’t go to plan as I was laid up with a virus, I only ran through my three tests the day before we left. I need not have worried as Oliver was the superstar he usually is and we were placed 3rd in the individual U21 Novice section." They also were on the podium again in the Team Quest, after leading the competition after the first day to be piped to the post on the final day to take second, "Oliver just came alive when he went into that international indoor. He knows how to put on a show."
Freya has now got the dressage passion, hoping to qualify for the Petplan Area Festivals however would still love to take Oliver out eventing too, "I’m also determined to get my freestyle to music sorted so I can get out and do a couple of tests. We also want to move up the levels now so are training at Elementary but who knows how far we can go as a team – with Oliver anything seems possible he is so trainable."
From a little worrier to a dressage star Oliver is certainly enjoying life with Freya, "For the first couple of weeks when we first bought him home he was a little stressed, I was in the sand more than on his back but as soon as that bond clicked, I could ask him to jump through fire and he would. He has such a trainable nature and he’s super smart, he often knows what I’m going to ask of him before I do. You can take him anywhere and he doesn’t change he is super chilled and a yard favourite!"
A fun all-rounder that can look elegant in the white boards as well as a cross country machine, Freya couldn't ask for much more, "This is what I love about him, you can genuinely ask him to do anything. It just makes working with him really fun and its great to mix it up as he likes for his mind to be kept busy. He is definitely a pick pocket, he has his favorite humans at the stables, those are the ones that give him treats but as soon as he sees them he makes a dash to them, even if he's working in the arena and he spots them watching. They do get a big sloppy kiss on the lips off him as a thank you so Im sure they don’t mind!"
Freya wanted to make a lasting impression on the sport, "I really want to raise awareness within our sport that being a deaf rider shouldn’t hold you back and stop you achieving things. I have overcome many things and have helped to breakdown many barriers to get to where I am today and have had some amazing experiences along the way."
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