Equestrian: Stepping stone to riding success

Annabelle Rehn with her horse Aros A' Fenris at last year's World Dressage Challenge. The two had just two weeks to train together.
Annabelle Rehn with her horse Aros A' Fenris at last year's World Dressage Challenge. The two had just two weeks to train together.PHOTO: KARINA LIM

Singapore is base for Danish teenager's world youth equestrian title win

If Danish rider Annabelle Rehn wins an equestrian Olympic medal in the future, her ride to success can be traced back to Singapore, where she first tasted major victory.

The 13-year-old, training in Singapore since 2017, was named the 2018 FEI World Dressage Challenge youth champion last Friday, beating 115 riders aged 12 to 16 years old from 36 countries, including Australia and Uruguay.

She rode Aros A' Fenris at the Singapore leg, where she scored 75.6 per cent to top Zone 9 (Singapore, India and the Philippines) at the Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre last October. Mairam Alymkulova, from Kyrgyzstan, was second overall on Apachi with 71.538 per cent.

Annabelle is the first in Singapore to win in any category in the Federation Equestre Internationale competition, which aims to give less experienced riders in "more remote countries" the chance to compete internationally. The other levels are Senior I, Senior II, Prix St George and the highest is Intermediate I.

Dressage involves each rider and horse pair performing the same movements in the order set by the competition. Each movement is scored out of 10 and the combined score is converted to a percentage.

When Annabelle received her ranking, she was "over the moon".

"I was nervous before my ride but my horse will be able to sense my nerves, so I had to keep calm," the Dulwich College (Singapore) student told The Straits Times.

"I was really happy receiving my score. I knew it was a good one and was hoping for the big prize.

"Keeping my horse motivated was important so I kept praising him and acknowledging his work by patting him and talking to him," said Annabelle, who was based in Malaysia before moving to Singapore with her parents.

AFFINITY

In a competition, judges judge a lot on the harmony between horse and rider. Aros had to learn a new sequence in two weeks and it normally takes quite a long time to build a partnership with a horse.

AUDREY NJOTO, equestrian coach, on the short timeframe Annabelle had to build a rapport with her horse.

Her coach, Indonesian Audrey Njoto, said the achievement was remarkable given they had trained together for only two weeks.

"In a competition, judges judge a lot on the harmony between horse and rider. Aros had to learn a new sequence in two weeks and it normally takes quite a long time to build a partnership with a horse," said the 2015 SEA Games team dressage gold medallist.

"Annabelle was very mature in her thinking; she knew she had to really understand her horse.

"So we focused on figuring out what system works best for them to communicate well and translate that into the movements required."

President and chief executive of Singapore Turf Club Chong Boo Ching also hailed Annabelle's achievement, saying: "We could not be more proud of her and Aros.

"Annabelle is the first rider based in Singapore to have won first place at any level on the world stage.

"This title is also a great testament to the team of instructors, vets, farriers, groomers and staff at the Riding Centre who tirelessly look after the riders and horse population and maintain our world-class facilities with utmost professionalism.

"I hope that this achievement will motivate and inspire young equestrians in Singapore to continue to achieve better results in regional and global competitions, as well as encourage youths and families to take up the sport of riding - you will never know when you'll ride all the way to the top."

Instead of taking time off to celebrate, Annabelle has continued training six times a week in the hope of retaining her National Dressage Championships Open title in May.

"In equestrian, you need to be committed and resilient. If I take a break, it's going to take some time to build up my horse again because they will become stiff," said the teenager, who aims to represent Denmark at an Olympics.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2019, with the headline 'Stepping stone to riding success'. Print Edition | Subscribe