A SIXTEEN-year-old girl holds onto the reins of her beloved pony.
But for Burntisland lass Victoria Hewson her 700lb companion is not merely a pet – it is her partner in the show-jumping arena.
Victoria, a former pupil of Sea View Private School in Kirkcaldy, has been riding ponies since receiving one as a family gift aged 10.
She has since dedicated her life to caring for her animals and developing her riding skills, so much so that she dropped out of school early in order to focus on an equestrian career.
And all her hard work paid off recently when she claimed victory in a major European event at Nieuwpoort in Belgium, riding her favourite pony, Midnight Minuet.
“Show-jumping is everything to me,” Victoria told SportsPress.
“It’s what I do everyday. I don’t work anywhere else, and I don’t get paid for what I do. I just try to make myself better every day.
“I don’t like getting up early for anything, but if it’s show-jumping that’s different. If I’ve to get up at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning, I’ll always get up.”
Despite her success, Victoria has had to overcome confidence issues, and a dislocated knee suffered when her pony failed to complete a jump, before making her way into the world of competitive show-jumping.
“I’ve found it very difficult to learn,” Victoria confessed. “It’s been hard work.
“I used to get really nervous, and I didn’t like jumping big fences. It was a really big thing for me to overcome.
“I wasn’t very good and always wanted to be better than what I was. I always looked up to professional riders and wanted to be like them.
“Last year was a big year for me. I went to a lot of big shows down south and really gave myself an ambition to achieve something bigger.
“This year I told myself I wanted to get on the Scotland team and go abroad, which I’ve managed to do.”
Victoria currently trains at the Howe Country Centre – an equestrian site near Ladybank.
Her selection for the trip to Belgium was her first show-jumping trip to Europe, and to cap it off with a victory left her delighted.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I asked my dad to double-check the result because I thought it had to be wrong.
“My pony was in season and really moody so I was finding it hard to get a good tick out of her.
“But I’ve got a good partnership with her, so I knew what I had to do to make her to go.”
Indeed, Victoria has developed a special relationship with Midnight Minuet, so much so that she believes the pony now completely trusts her.
“She’s so close to me,” she said. “Her previous owner never got the same tick out of it as I have. It never went to its full potential.
“But it’s doing this all for me. I sometimes think it shouldn’t do it for me, but I’ve got a good bond with her, and she trusts me a lot, you really feel that.
“Sometimes she is really moody, and can be really crabbit and not want to do anything.
“But when I let her know that we’re a team and we’ve got to do it together she always pulls something out of the bag – even if I’m wrong.”
Despite her affections for Midnight Minuet, Victoria’s dedication to show-jumping is evident in her willingness to part company with her prize pet in order to progress in the sport.
“This is my last year on ponies before I move up to horses, so all my ponies are for sale,” she said.
“I’ll be gutted that she has to go, but at end of day it’s not a hobby. It’s got to make a little bit of money, and I’ve got to move on, so it’s got to go.
“I’m really looking forward to moving up to horses because it’s what I want to do. But I’ve got a good partnership with her, so I knew what to do to make her go.”
Victoria could not have got this far without the support of parents Adrian and Michelle, who have devoted their lives to their daughter’s show-jumping ambitions.
Dad Adrian said: “It’s been a complete change in lifestyle for the family. Everything is now geared towards what Victoria is doing a weekends.
“It can be absolutely terrifying as a parent, but we’re getting more used to it now!
“As along as she stays this committed to it, we’ll support her.
Victoria pictured above with Midnight Minuet, now hopes to build on her success in Belgium, and has dreams of one day riding in the Olympics.