SOLIHULL’S Lucy Phillips is celebrating after qualifying for the World Equestrian Games, which take place in Normandy, France, between August 23-September 7, writes Anna-Louise Adams.
The games are of an extremely high standard and combine gymnastics with horse riding, where the rider has to perform a gymnastic routine while on horseback, and 24-year-old Phillips is determined to shine on the world stage.
Phillips is ranked eighth in the FEI world rankings and second in Britain and is the six-time and current English vaulting champion.
She recalls where her journey in the sport began.
“I started riding when I was five and I also did gymnastics. I combined the two when I was seven. Vaulting on horseback is a big sport in Germany and at the time my Mum had a dressage trainer from Germany and they told us we should give it a go,” said Phillips.
“It’s a non-Olympic sport, but it’s of an Olympic standard. I had to qualify for the World Equestrian Games by getting two scores over seven in two international competitions and submit one score to the International Equestrian Federation.
“Whoever gets the highest scores from the international competitions makes the team. I compete as an individual but am representing Great Britain.”
Phillips has held the title of English girls’ individual champion since 2007 up to this day, as well as being ranked eighth best in the world and second in Great Britain. She has managed to achieve this with the help of her mum, who is her ‘lunger’.
She added: “The way it works is the horse is controlled by a ‘lunger’ inside a 15-20m circle. The lunger controls the horse while the rider performs gymnastics while the horse canters.
“The sport requires an immense amount of trust and skill. My mum is my lunger which works great because I trust her a lot.”
The vaulting discipline requires a lot of preparation including choreography and practising every move, right down to the expressions on the rider’s face.
“I was selected for the vaulting team and within each discipline there are a few different events. In vaulting there are compulsories which everyone has to do, there is a freestyle which is a choreographed one-minute piece and there are technical tests where five moves are prescribed which competitors have to include in their routine,” said Phillips.
“One of the things I love about the sport is that I’m working in a small team of me, my mum and the horse. You can express yourself because the routines are performed to music, so you can really get your personality across. It also challenges me all the time which I love.
“We pick the music which expresses my personality, or that I like or can relate to. We choreograph it on a ‘barrel’ which is a fake horse and we practice facial expressions, body language and moves as we get rated on all of those.”
Phillips has a part-time job as well as her intensive weekly training plan.
She added: “I vault on my horse around three times a week for an hour-and-a-half each time. I try and do a barrel session every day, as well as three gym sessions and a swim session every week.
“I work as a strength and conditioning coach at Birmingham University, where I graduated. It’s really flexible as they understand that I have to train and compete. I am also a fitness sports model for W Athletic in London.”
After achieving so much at the age of 24, it is no wonder Phillips sets herself high targets to aim for.
She concluded: “I’d like to make the top six in the world and in the Equestrian Games I’d like to be in the top eight.
“I prefer to compare myself to myself. If I do what I think is good then I am happy. I came 13th at the last World Equestrian Games so I’ll be happy if I can improve on that.”