Gillian riding to nationals

Dressage A DRESSAGE rider from Stebbing is one step closer to realising her dream of competing at a national level.

Gillian Portus, from Stebbing, travelled to Norton Heath in Ingatestone with her horse Pjotr to compete in the open section of the British Dressage medium classes. Portus and ‘PJ’ needed one more point to advance.

She achieved a personal best with scores of 72.7 and 70 per cent to gain 13 points and qualify for the regional stage. Portus and PJ will compete in the medium and advanced-medium classes.

The regional finals are familiar ground for Portus, who has competed on a number of horses but she has never been able to overcome the final stage.

“Getting to the nationals would be a dream come true,” she said.

“PJ is capable of competing at the next level – I just have to conquer my nerves as I can’t ride when I get nervous. The pressure gets to me and I think about what the judges are thinking rather than just the riding.”

She has started seeing a sports psychologist to calm her down when she competes.

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“The psychologist has been great and taught me to just focus on riding,” she added.

It was “just riding” that started her love affair with dressage.

“I have always grown up around horses – my sister Georgina and I had a pony club when we were younger. This then led to teaching others on our ponies.

“After a while I decided to cut down on the teaching as I wasn’t actually getting to do much riding of my own.”

It was this dedication that persuaded her parents, Val and Peter, to buy her a horse. Her love of dressage blossomed and she is a regular at regional competitions.

Portus is also a registered British Horse Society assistant instructor and gives lessons at her own yard in Stebbing, and at other local yards. She specialises in teaching dressage because of her own passion for the sport.

When she is not riding Portus is working at Walk to Canter, a tack shop started by her and her mother in 2009.