Gemma Lewis
Young Rider of the Year Gemma Lewis riding Ruanuku R at the 2024 Land Rover Horse of the Year. Copyright: Michelle Clarke Photography

It’s not often you see a rider bouncing from the dressage oval to the mounted games track and doing well in both . . . but that is exactly what double title winner Gemma Lewis did at LRHOY.

The 18-year-old from Springston brought three horses with her to HOY – her dressage star Ruanuku R, her five-year-old LL Tyche and Fern, her mounted games pony.

With Ruanuku, Gemma won the dressage Young Rider of the Year crown, with Tyche she won the Five-Year-Old Young Dressage Horse of the year, and with Fern was a member of the reserve champion under-18 team.

This was her first year competing in pure dressage, but she’s been here three times before to showjump and compete in mounted games.

Ruanuku joined her team in mid 2021. The 18-year-old schoolmaster had competed to level 8 with previous owner Angela Lloyd, but when he moved south, Gemma had only been competing at level 2. In four short months, the combination rocked up to level 7.

Gemma made the move to straight dressage in 2019-2020 but had been dabbling in everything before that.

As part of her Pony Club training for the Springston Trophy, Gemma was getting dressage lessons with Nicola Maley. “I had a pony called Triple Star Blank Canvas who was a bit tricky but with the training he went much better and that was a cool feeling.”

It went so well, she continued to work with Nicola until her death in 2023. It made her win at HOY this year all the more special.

It was Nicola who suggested she look at Ruanuku. “He was cool from the start,” says Gemma. “I hadn’t ridden a horse like him before. He may be a schoolmaster but he doesn’t make it easy. If you don’t push the right buttons he won’t do anything. He is very opinionated.”

She was so chuffed with the win. “My goal was to win the young rider – we have had a cool season. Hopefully we can do it all again at Nationals soon.”

She and Ru, as he is known by his mates, scored 73.04% in the Young Rider Freestyle CDIY (title) and 66.177% in the young rider title class.

The freestyle is her favourite. “I just love how much he tries for me,” says Gemma.

“I am pretty happy – I didn’t think I would win. I had a lot of little mistakes in my individual that I thought would be costly but we still won. I got off my dressage horse to go straight to the mounted games for the finals. It is pretty cool.”

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