THEA Llewellin is 17 years of age and is making a name for herself in the world of equine sport, initially in show jumping but more recently in three-day eventing, where she has done so well that she is hoping for selection for the South Wales and Central Under 18 team.

This has come about after six competitions, three last year and the rest over recent months where she has again done really well, including a terrific second place in the final one, where she had the distinction of securing the best score in the dressage component.

Most competitions for her age tend to take place over a single day for the dressage, show jumping and cross country disciplines, so her sport demands total focus for both horse and rider, and a huge commitment in terms of travel.

“Most of the events for me take place the other side of the Severn Bridge,” said Thea.

"Often in Devon or Wiltshire and up as far as Daventry, but I am very lucky to have the total support from my parents, Dai and Helen, and mum regularly drives my horse Kyra and I wherever we need to go.

"Luckily, she enjoys working with horses as much as I do.”

Thea first sat on a horse when she was only four. She went to Mallards Reach to ride for Amy James on her show ponies and was asked by Chloe Sturley to ride her pony Wynn and started to compete in numerous pony club competitions and won her share of rosettes at the county show and other local equine competitions.

Wynn eventually joined the Llewellin household and Thea readily admits that the 14.2 hands black pony, which was already very experienced, helped her to learn a great deal.

Ask Thea about other major influences on her riding and she would immediately nominate Michael Butcher, who hails from Milford Haven and is a British Showjumping Coach, and also does a great deal of work with the ‘Riding For The Disabled’ scheme.

“Michael has been a terrific help in polishing my skills and helping me to build my confidence, alongside what mum has done, and I really look forward to my coaching sessions with him.”

On the show-jumping front, Thea began to learn to jump fences when she was eight and although she took to it well she wasn’t super-confident until she began to be coached by Michael, and was soon entering competitions at her age level.

Thea has ridden 11 year old bay mare Roche, who stands 17 hands, and the duo has done well in affiliated show jumping for British Show Jumping members at Moor Farm, where points awarded for top three places as competitors travel from all over South Wales and further afield.

But eventing is Thea’s main focus for the summer of 2017 and her aim from the outset has been to seek a place in the Welsh Under 18 team in partnership with Kyra, who is 16.3 hands and at 14 years of age is just about at her peak.

“Kyra has a lovely temperament and is an excellent show jumper, as well as being strong over cross country fences; and enjoying the discipline that dressage demands.”

Ask Thea about the skills needed for a sport that allies high skill levels with the complete trust needed in any sporting partnership, especially one involving an animal, and she is quick to answer.

“I control Kyra by tiny movements of my hands on the reins and the grip I can exert with my legs, plus the determination needed to overcome the difficult days in training when she occasionally doesn’t want to know.

“In one recent such off-day she even started to buck but I stayed on and gradually she came back to her best - which is very satisfying but physically demanding. A few rewards for the horse at the end also helps to reinforce new techniques learned,” admits Thea with a chuckle!

Her journey towards selection for the 10-man team started when she did quite well last year as she came second at Monmouth and won at Aldon but she ran out at a fence on the cross country course at Dauncey, which was a bit of a set-back.

“There were 80 competitors at Swarcliffe so we had to be split into two groups,” Thea told us, “and somehow the sheer numbers made me more nervous than usual - but we came eighth after a good start in the dressage, where we only accumulated 32 penalty points and then went clear over what was quite a challenging show-jumping course.

“That left us with the cross-country, where refusals or falls are heavily punished, and at one stage it looked as if I might finish in fourth place but picked up a few time faults as we tired towards the end of a challenging day - but I still felt that eighth wasn’t too bad.

“Then it was on to Sapey, in Herefordshire, for the fifth event and again the dressage was reasonable as we picked up 34.3 penalty points before again going clear in the show jumping.

“That left just the cross country and this time we were only 0.8 seconds outside the optimum time which meant we had no penalties and I was delighted with fifth place as our reward.”

That just left that vital final competition at Aston Le Walls and Thea maintained the trust and understanding between her mount and now hopefully it will be a case of Welsh Under 18 team here we come!

The team will compete in the UK regional championships at Frickley Park, Yorkshire in July - and nothing would please Thea more than donning that coveted red jacket with the Welsh badge emblazoned on it and competing for her native country.

If she achieves her aim the whole family will be delighted because they know how hard she has worked in pursuit of her dream - and we wish Thea Llewellin every success because she is a modest and pleasant young lady who is already flying the Pembrokeshire Sporting flag with distinction and deserves due reward for her efforts!