Sport

Benalla Sportstar: Ayers aims high with passion for riding

By Madi Chwasta

When 10-year-old Aleesha Ayers grows up, she wants to be an Olympic show-jumper.

And her perfect companion is Elargee Seabiscuit, an 11-year-old Welsh Mountain pony named after the US 1940s champion racehorse.

‘Cookie’ for short, Aleesha has known the pony her entire life, and has ridden it from when she first mounted a horse at five years old.

“At first Cookie was my sister’s horse, and he became my brother’s, and now he’s mine,” she said.

“He’s like a family heirloom.”

Aleesha is a member of the Benalla Pony Club, and during the past year, has turned riding from a hobby into a sport.

She qualified last year for the state games championships, but wasn’t able to complete because they didn’t have the numbers to send a team.

But now, she’ll finally get her chance - she has been ranked at Grade 6, the introductory competition level, and will compete for the first time this year.

She thinks she will do pretty well.

“I’m a little bit nervous, but other than that I’m quite confident,” she said.

Her mum Jo said while she was young, she has a fire in her belly for show jumping.

“She’s on that pony everyday,” she said.

“She comes home from school, takes off her uniform, and she’s out there.”

Aleesha is taught by her older sister Jaimie, who is a Grade 1 champion dressage competitor, Ron Waddell at the Benalla Pony Club, and international dressage champion David Boyle.

The owner of Ayres and Graces Performance Horses, Jo has regular dressage clinics on their property, and while she said she was used to Aleesha going out for a ride with Cookie, watching her show jump was a bit terrifying.

“It’s scary watching her compete,” she said.

“She’s my baby, as much as she’ll say don’t call me a baby, she’s still my baby girl.”

But Aleesha doesn’t let any of that get to her - she just likes heading out with her companion.

“I go out, get on Cookie and just ride,” she said.

“It gives me that bit of freedom.”

● Aleesha Ayers is nominated for the 2019/20 Delatite Steel Junior Sportstar (under-13).