PUBLISHED: 11:00 06 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:30 20 February 2013
Meet Wiltshire's rising star of show jumping, Jessica Mendoza. At just 15 years old, she has already represented Britain abroad and won at the Horse of the Year Show and Olympia, as Sandy Thwaites reveals
Meet Wiltshires rising star of show jumping, Jessica Mendoza. At just 15 years old, she has already represented Britain abroad and won at the Horse of the Year Show and Olympia, as Sandy Thwaites reveals
Before I met Jess, I was fully anticipating her to be the precocious and somewhat irritating product of overly ambitious parents. I could not have been more surprised to find her unaffected and refreshingly down to earth. Jess appears to be a well-adjusted teenager who enjoys school, sports and her friends, and has a very dry sense of humour for her age. In fact, as a pony-mad youngster who has never really grown up, I confess that I would love to have been Jess Mendoza.
Jess recently became the British Show Jumping Association Leading Pony Rider and has now notched up 10 European Grand Prix wins. This year her target is to win gold at the European Pony Championships in Poland at the end of July. Although she doesnt boast about her achievements, they have clearly contributed to a quiet confidence which belies her years. I would suggest its this calm focus which transmits to the horses. Invariably, top riders make it all look so easy and effortless.
Jess lives with her mother, Sarah, and father, Paul, just outside Lyneham. They moved there three years ago from Lambourn, so they could afford a bit of land and a yard at home for about 10 ponies and horses. She goes to school at St Marys in Calne and works her training and competing (at home and abroad) around lessons. Team Mendoza is a strong one which appears to be based on mutual respect and, most importantly, having fun. Sarah helps ride the horses and Paul (a former show jumper himself) helps train Jess. Paul works in London and clearly has an eccentric sense of humour. He wasnt there when I visited, but both Mum and daughter constantly took the micky out of him in his absence. Nevertheless, I strongly suspect that it is Paul who is Jesss secret weapon and who is at the root of her level-headedness.
Jess clearly also warms to the eccentricity in her 13-year-old superstar pony, Tixylix (Tixy): She knows what she wants and will always make her feelings clear. She loves all the pampering, and if she was a person, she would happily spend her whole time in the beauty salon! Tixys such a star I really want to get her featured in the showjumping Hall of Fame.
As well as looking the part, Tixy knows her stuff. Together, she and Jess have notched up some impressive victories on the junior circuit in a partnership which began just three years ago. Nor has Jesss talent and ambition gone unnoticed in the horse world. Sponsors such as Antares Saddlery, Ariat, Asda (Sporting Chances), Baileys Horsefeeds and Sovereign Horseboxes have been quick to offer their support.
Meanwhile, Jess is just as happy on the athletics field, where she was recently on the winning Wiltshire youth team at the National Pentathlon Championships. Whats more, she still has energy left over for teaching her Jack Russell, Fitch, dog agility, and I suspect shes just as competitive at that too.
At what age did you first ride/start competing?
My parents put me on a horse when I was just 18 months old. I started competing aged three in the showing ring and very soon moved on to show jumping.
What is the attraction for you?
The challenge of getting the horse to trust you and going your fastest against the clock.
Biggest achievements (to date) in the sport?
Winning both at the Horse of the Year Show and taking back-to-back Olympia titles; as well as representing Britain in the Pony Nations Cup Team and at the European Pony Championships.
Biggest achievements outside horses?
That would probably have to be helping the Wiltshire team win the National Pentathlon Championships last autumn. I love all sport, so the mix of high jump, long jump, hurdles, 800m and shot put is right up my street.
If its financially possible and I can find the horse power, then I would love to be a full-time professional show jumper. Id like to win a European Gold Medal and ride for my country at the Olympics. 2012 will come too soon for me, so Rio in 2016 would be my first goal.
Funniest horsey moment? See above!
I dont know whether this counts exactly, but I did manage to prove that my dog could jump higher than 4 foot (with a bit of extra horse power!)
Favourite Wiltshire place:
The Spice of Asia, our local curry house in Lyneham. I dont need to order, they just appear with my favourite chicken korma and a peshwari naan!
Best (and worst) things about living here:
I love my school and its central for everything from going out to compete, to going up to London or down to Bristol to meet friends. The worst thing is the wind! Our place always seems to catch it.