By Kyra Gillespie
Tynong North resident Sophie Bennett, 14, has just become the youngest rider to win Eventing Victoria’s Amateur Event Rider of the Year award.
This coveted award is performance-based, with the results of riders being collated over a 12-month period.
At such a young age, Sophie’s results have surpassed every other Victorian amateur event rider, including adults.
“It’s a bit surreal, to be honest – it hasn’t exactly sunk in,” Sophie said.
“I just can’t believe Connie and I were able to achieve that together.”
The awards were announced at the 2017 Victorian Eventers Ball at Moonee Valley Racecourse.
As Sophie is underage, the organisers gave special permission for her to attend the presentation ceremony part of the evening.
Sophie’s mare Branigans Irish Connection, affectionately called ‘Connie’, also placed fifth in the Event Horse of the Year which is an incredible achievement, as this is an open award normally won by horses ridden by professionals.
Sophie is only in Year 9 and is part of the Elite Sports Performers (ESP) program St Paul’s Anglican Grammar School, where she juggles her schooling and sporting responsibilities.
Sophie has had some outstanding achievements these last 12 months.
Last September Sophie competed in Cross Country at the Australian Interschool Equestrian Championships at which she won the Eventer’s Award across all levels.
In November she was the overall series winner in her class at the Interschool Dressage Championships and in April at the Interschool Equestrian State Championships at Werribee she was the Division winner in the Intermediate Novice Dressage and overall Reserve Champion in the Secondary Working Hunter class.
In April she also placed first overall at the Tintern Horse Trials, in the highest level possible for interschool eventing competitions.
In June Sophie competed in the Melbourne International Three Day Eventing competition against the best junior riders (up to 18 years of age) from all over Australia, finishing second overall and was also in the winning team with her horse, again as the youngest competitor.
“We are so proud of Sophie as she has worked so hard to achieve outstanding results capped off by this amazing award,” Sophie’s mum Julie Bennett said.
Sophie has been riding since she was five years old.
“What I love most about riding is the freedom,” Sophie said.
“It’s amazing how much trust horses have in us.”