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Jonny - International Grand Prix Rider

Following in his mother and sister’s footsteps, Jonny started riding when he was nine years old. Jonny and his sister, Alana, were generally pretty mischievous with their ponies and paid very little heed to where they could and could not ride – indeed they paid little attention to anything they were told they couldn’t do. Probably unaware of the excellent teaching that dribbled into them as young kids from Antonia Wills, it was only when they were a little older that their intrepid adventures on their ponies translated into the fearless joy that accompanies all good riders. A thoroughly engaged equestrian family, Alana has evented up to three star level and now assists her husband, himself a successful jockey and Master of the Grafton, with their successful racing yard.

Jonny, meantime, though eventing himself for a few years, started to specialize in dressage just in time to get involved in Young Riders. Seeking out the help of Delia Cunningham, he went from having never ridden much more than a simple eventing test to contesting Prix St Georges dressage within a few months. His then horse, Sibelius, was far more than just a young rider horse and the pair competed all through the levels and enjoyed a few seasons competing internationally at Grand Prix.

On finishing his master’s degree in philosophy, Jonny was seconded to assist in the running of the family business. This meant that dressage took a bit of a back seat for a few years. It was in 2009 that he asked his trainer, at the time, Pammy Hutton, if he could stable full time at Talland. This meant that he could crack on with running what had turned into rather a large and successful family business of nearly 1500 staff by day and rock-up to Talland in the evenings to try Pammy’s patience and light up her indoor school often till ten o’clock in the evenings. Six years later and with a considerably larger string of horses, Jonny left Talland to set up his own place at Curls Farm. They were very formative years since he’d not really done much riding for nearly four years and had dropped from being pretty much at the top end of the sport with Sibelius to having to catch-up, again.


Rising back up again with Tom meant international placings as well placings at Intermediaire I and Intermediaire II at the Nationals. At the same time a successful sale of the family business was forged meaning that Jonny could spend more time riding, once more. Some very promising youngsters as well as the super-exciting 9 year old Zick Zack Toftegard complement his top ride, Khartoum. At the 2016 Nationals, Jonny and Zak enjoyed a 4th in the Medium Gold and 3rd in the Advanced Medium Gold classes - with 2017 looking even more exciting! Aside from the dressage, Jonny also restarted his eventing following the arrival of King Caspar in May 2016 - they managed to squeeze in several runs at BE100Plus, even getting a double clear. 2017 saw Zak stepping up to Small Tour level, with plenty of top 10 placings at the Premier Leagues, as well as a win at Somerford Park! Ending the season with 6th place at the Nationals in the PSG Class.

Elizabeth - International U25 Rider

Elizabeth grew up locally near Glastonbury and was bought her first pony when she was two and half and has been riding ever since! As a child she was a member of the Mendip Pony Club and then the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale, taking part in all pony club activities as well as showing and some dressage, too. The turning point came when, age 13, Sally Goodwin Davis offered Elizabeth the ride on her 12.3hh former FEI dressage pony Cotterill Goldcrest (Bart) and gave her an insight in to the world of dressage. It was through Sally that Elizabeth found her first horse Holme Grove Bardot, who had previously been a broodmare and had also hunted several seasons with the Blackmore Vale. Together they learnt and progressed from Novice to Advanced Level as well as being selected for Junior National Training in 2009. 

Elizabeth then spent several years based with Shena Kozuba Kozubska at Equi-Sense and started taking her BHS exams, After completing her A levels, Elizabeth worked in a couple of private dressage yards as well as completing her BHS AI and beginning the partnership with her next horse Don Dellero (Lexi), who together they won the Area Festival Novice Open Final in 2012, as well as competing in the Advanced Medium Restricted regionals later that Summer. Then Elizabeth spent the next year completing her British Dressage Advanced Apprenticeship with Anna Ross at Altogether Equestrian. In the summer of 2013, Elizabeth moved to the Talland School of Equitation to train for her BHS II.  She also started to look after Jonny’s horses, as well as horses for Vivian Chang, a member of the Taiwanese dressage team. At Talland, Elizabeth became one of Talland's Intermediate Coaches, as well as riding and competing several liveries for their owners. In 2014, she was a semi finalist in the BD Young Professionals Award with the following couple of years seeing plenty of good results – including top ten placings at the Regionals with Lexi, Fidelio and Delphi as well as qualifying for the 2015 National Championships with Fiddles at Elementary level. 2016 brought a new ride Pioneer Rosie belonging to Rachel Jones. Quickly forming a partnership they gained plenty of top ten placings at Small Tour level at each Premier League Show, including scored up to 72% in their first season together! Whilst with Lexi, they had wins at each Premier league show at Advanced Medium as well as top 3 placings at the Regionals.  In 2017 Rosie stepped up to Intermedaire II and Under 25 Grand Prix level and they made their International Debut at Hickstead CDI at Under 25 Grand Prix level. 

Towards the end of 2017, Elizabeth took over the ride of Tom from Jonny, they have already had some successful tests together and wins at Inter 2 level - as well as featuring in Horse and Hound in an article about small riders on big horses!
Elizabeth has gained her UKCC3 and BHS I qualifications as well as being a BHS, Pony Club and BD accredited trainer. 

Alex - International Young Rider

Alex started riding at the age of eleven when a friend dragged him to the local riding school. Despite being rather reluctant to start with, once hoisted aboard a donkey called Jimmy, Alex has never looked back.

Within six months he’d persuaded his parents to buy him his first horse, Charlie. Over 16 hands and a 3 year old thoroughbred, this may not have been the best choice for an 11 year old boy who’d as yet to learn to rise to the trot. Failure to invest in a saddle for two years saw Alex riding Charlie bareback and many a modern requirement for competitive dressage yet to crystallise. Perhaps all young riders should spend a year without a saddle to develop their seats.

At the age of 13, Alex spent a summer with James Roberts for whom he would later work. You could say it was a slightly odd choice for an aspiring dressage rider to go and work for a cowboy in the middle of Wiltshire however the things he learnt whilst at James’s are the stuff that sticks. Whilst there, Alex learnt how quickly things can go from bad to worse with horses and the importance of getting it right the first time round. To say that there was plenty of variety would be no understatement: you name it, Alex saw it. But it wasn’t all “yehaww cowboy”: Alex was shown the intricacies of starting and developing a young horse’s foundation and how to keep a horse’s confidence intact whilst getting on their backs for the first time.

Alex later went out to Switzerland to work for Carmen Zulauf, a natural horsemanship instructor based at the Swiss national training ground (the IENA). During his time at Carmen’s, he stayed in the most luxurious accommodation: a shipping container at the back of the barn complete with a window and a bed! During the summer it was hot enough to fry a chicken on the floor of the container. Unfortunately, there was no washing machine and there was no window that would have been large enough to let the smell out. Alex puts that experience down to a test of character and proof that no matter how shiny his boots are he can still get down and dirty like the rest of them.

It was at this time that Alex made the call to bite the bullet and head to AM Dressage. During his time there, he had the opportunity to ride some of the highest quality horses in the country from 3 year olds right through to international Grand Prix horses. It was during his time there that he found his youngster Diamond Hill, a small chestnut with what you might call a big character. On only his second outing to a dressage competition, he got a direct qualification to the nationals with a 2nd place at the wellington premier league in the 4 year old class.

In October 2016 Alex was nominated by selectors to join the BEF Excel Talent Programme. This is aimed at up and coming riders and assists them with developing their career – all sorts of training from psychology, media training to dressage itself are covered.

2016 saw top 3 placings for Damo at the Regionals at Novice and Elementary level as well as a successful debut at Medium level, easily qualifying for the Winter Regionals 2017. Lula qualified for the 4 year old Semi- Finals held at the Hartpury Festival of Dressage in July 2016. Ruben has had a terrific year and together they have enjoyed a very successful Premier League season with plenty of top 10 placings. At Hickstead CDI they made their International Young Rider debut – winning all 3 classes! To finish the year, they ventured abroad to Exloo CDI in the Netherlands and well as Aachen in Germany!

Alex is a BD Accredited trainer and BD List 4 Judge, and also holds his UKCC3 qualification.


Kathryn - Int'l Para Rider

Kathryn has been riding since she can remember. Growing up around her mother’s horses she was bought her first lead rein pony at 7 years old, starting off at local shows and even winning at county level. She was fortunate enough to keep her horse on Andrew Day’s yard where at 12 years of age she found dressage and managed to teach her Welsh section a to do a turn on the forehand!

At 14 Kathryn was classified as a para rider due to her growth disorder (Turners syndrome) which effects the mobility through her joints, coordination and spatial awareness, a year later she did her first junior international for Great Britain on her first dressage horse Panters Pioneer. At 18 Kathryn’s mother brought her current horse Waragon at the time a 4 year old by Negro. She trained him up the levels whilst doing a degree in Psychology with Sports Science at Nottingham Trent University. It’s been a long journey with him but last year after changing nationalities Kathryn and Waragon were invited to their first European championships where they came 8th with 68% in the team test for Ireland.

After completing her degree Kathryn decided to have a gap year to work with horses where she found sheepcote equestrian and ended up staying for 3 years training with David and Serena Pincus, where she got the opportunity to ride and compete a Grand Prix horse. Kathryn is 25 and joined the team as a working pupil in June 2016.

Kathryn also competes in able bodied competitions and has been to the national championships three times at medium level, even coming 3rd in the medium restricted freestyle at the 2016 Winter Championships. Dreamer is now 14 and training at somewhere between Advanced Medium and Grand Prix! In 2016 they represented Ireland at the Para International at Hartpury Festival of Dressage, then scored a whopping 76% to win their qualifier test in October at Solihull and completed their first Advanced Medium at Hartpury in November. Since selling Dreamer, Kathryn has found her new partner Finn, a 4 year old. Whilst he develops, she is now campaigning Lexi for Elizabeth internationally for Ireland – with 3 top 3 placings at Bishop Burton CPEI in July despite still being a new partnership.

Jess Biography

Jess has been around horse’s since she was 2 and has loved them ever since. Aged 7, she had her first pony – Charlie the New Forest. Jess enjoyed the ground work with CharIie and enjoyed much success in-hand showing with him. Alongside her family she helped with plenty of rescue horses and ponies, coping with scared neglected horses let Jess help to regain their trust and confidence as well as enhance her ground work skills.

Jess passed her Levels 1 and 2 in Horse Care and Management at Norton Radstock College, and also did a 2 year work placement at HorseWorld. With her current horse Alfie, they have progressed together over the past few years forming quite a partnership after joining the Blackdown Riding Club. They are developing their flatwork now as well as gaining more confidence jumping. Last year they entered a few hunter trials and thoroughly enjoyed them, with this years aim being a one day event.

Jess joined the team, aged 23, in April as a part time groom and became full time in November.

Shannon Biography

Shannon Cussen

Shannon Cussen, 24, joined the team in December 2017 with her horse Fan and little dog Minnie from Ireland. She started riding age 12 with weekly riding school lessons, a year she as bought her first pony by her Granny - a 5 years old called Dancer. At 15, Shannon bought LP, a show jumper. To help get him stronger she started taking dressage more seriously at 17, together they won the Silver Spurs u25 Championships together in 2015. Then at the Racing Academy Shannon gained Distinctions in the care and exercise of racehorses, stable management, equine anatomy and physiology as well as becoming an apprentice level coach and an level 1 HSI Coach.

Following this, Shannon worked at the Airlie Stud in Kildare and is very experienced in all aspects of stud life and is supported and sponsored by Haylo.

Talent wins games, teamwork wins Championships!

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