Dressage: Fiona and Devon earn wildcard pick for Area Festival Championship

Dressage rider Fiona Stryjewski and horse Devon have qualified for a major British championship, the Area Festival Championship
Dressage rider Fiona Stryjewski and horse Devon have qualified for a major British championship, the Area Festival Championship

A dressage rider from Kirkcudbright says it is a “dream come true” to have been awarded two wildcard places for a British national championship.

Fiona Stryjewski (39), from Twynholm, and her ten-year-old horse Devon have earned a place in the Medium Bronze and Advanced Medium Bronze category classes at the Area Festival Championship.

In October they narrowly missed out on automatic qualifying for the event when they finished third in each class in the regional finals.

However, their combined score was high enough to earn them wildcard entries into the competition at Harputy College, Gloucester in April.

Fiona, a business development manager for Natural Power, said: “It really was a case of last summer we’ll ‘give it a go’ to see how we would get on.

“It’s amazing, to get in at the national final at not just one but two levels in our first attempt is a dream come true. There are 30 horse and riders in each class and you are competing against the best in the UK at that level so to get a top ten finish would be brilliant.”

It’s the third time they have qualified for a national final though their previous efforts were at Elementary – the level below. Fiona believes the experience two years ago of the British Dressage National Championships will stand her in good stead for this competition.

She said: “I don’t think anything can prepare you for the first time you do that. Nothing prepares you for how nervous you are going to be and the horse picks up on that. Having been there before and going back will hopefully put us in a slightly better place.”

Fiona, who first began dressage in 2009, has had Devon, a Dutch Warmblood, for three years and says he is the best horse she has had.

She said: “Most horses are able to get to Elementary level but to get to Advanced Medium you need horses that are bred for the job, every horse I have had before hasn’t reached this level.

“This is new for me and for him, neither have been at this level, making it twice as hard.

“He is a nice mannered horse most of the time, he has a nice attitude and is probably as close as you could get to a labrador in a horse. He is affectionate. We are so lucky. Buying a horse can be a minefield sometimes, you never know what you are going to get.”

Fiona paid tribute to the help and support around her from her parents and friends to the training she gets from Jo Barry, a 14-time British Championship winner, Les Smith, and the network of farriers, vets, dentists and physios –both horse and human – that keep them fit and able.

Fiona had also received a grant from the Stewartry Sports Council and hopes to inspire the younger generation through her coaching at Stewartry Pony Club.

And she isn’t dwelling on her achievement as she has the Scottish regional finals to compete in at the end of this month.