Bishop's Stortford schoolgirl Liala Ramaci wins Mini-Major title at Olympia Horse Show alongside Norway's Karina Hovland
Liala Ramaci is planning on taking further strides towards the top this year after enjoying a spectacular end to 2019 with success at the Olympia Horse Show.
The nine-year-old rider, who attends St Michael's C of E Primary School in Bishop's Stortford, was the youngest competitor in the Aztec Diamond Pony Club Mini-Major.
Liala, who began riding when she was four-years-old, was partnered up with international star Karina Hovland, from Norway, on the day and they both had clear rounds, with the victory being secured thanks to Liala's time of 17.71sec over the six fences.
She was on board eight-year-old Dinky - whose official name is Lambay Off Broadway - who her family bought in Ireland 11 months ago.
It was an incredible achievement for the Essex Hunt North Pony Club member, with only eight places across the whole of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland available for young Pony Club members to compete at the historic event.
The winners of five qualification events, which all feature around 100 children, get picked along with three wild cards. Liala secured her place in her first year trying to do so by triumphing at Devon's Bicton Arena in June when she was aged eight.
Liala lives in Great Canfield with mum Julia, dad Antonio and seven-year-old sister Siana, who also attends St Michael's and is a fellow Essex Hunt North member. The family moved there from Stansted three years ago.
Liala was cheered on to victory at Olympia by a 20-strong group of family and friends including grandparents John and Barbara Bosworth and Carmelo and Maria Ramaci, with the latter having flown over from Sicily for the event.
"I was really happy and nervous when I went into the ring," said Liala. "I was focused on doing all of my turns and going fast.
"I didn't really hear the crowd as I was going round as I was really concentrating. I was really happy to win."
The talented schoolgirl is no stranger to success having racked up the accolades in a tremendous 2019.
She won the 85cm Grand Prix final at the Pony of the Year Show as well as coming second and third in the Mini Championship and 11-and-under Grand Prix finals respectively at the event in Rugby.
Liala was also first and second in events which were part of the East of England British Showjumping Bronze League final, as well as bagging gold and silver medals in team competitions at the Welsh Home Pony International Show.
Now she is targeting a place at the prestigious Hickstead and Horse of the Year Shows this year as well as qualifying for Olympia again, although she will have to do so in a different event as riders can only compete in the Mini-Major once.
"I like jumping and I like doing cross country," said Liala. "I like going really fast."
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More by this authorMichael Vaughton