A seven-years-old girl from Inishowen will be the youngest competitor in the showjumping classes in the Balmoral Show next month.
Sarah McLaughlin, whose mum Caroline is a native of Derry, will compete on two ponies at the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society Show in the under-10 category.
Sarah has been involved with horses all her life, as her dad, Ronan, owns the Malin Stables and Glenleary Stables in Letterkenny.
Ronan told the ‘Journal’ that his talented daughter has been ‘on horses since she was fit to walk.’
He said: “Sarah has been on a horse from a very young age and she just loves it, she has never been used to anything else. She is getting on so well and it just comes so easy to her.”
Showjumpers from all over Ireland competed to get a place in the category and there are just 24 competitors.
In fact, there were four qualifying events to secure a spot in the Under 10’s Championship at the Balmoral Show.
Sarah not only qualified with two ponies, she also won one of the qualifying events.
There are a number of other showjumping competitions at the show, including national showjumping, international show jumping, school team competitions and amateur showjumping.
Ronan said this was a ‘massive’ achievement for his daughter, who will now be the youngest competitor in the event.
“Qualifying was very competitive and I really didn’t expect her to be at that level for another year. Children are only able to register with the Showjumping Association from the age of five, so competing at this event will be a very important stepping stone for her.
“Most kids are only starting to ride at Sarah’s age, never mind compete in events like this.”
He said that Sarah was very excited and buzzing about the whole thing.
“She has been at the Balmoral Show as a spectator for the past couple of years and she was there, soaking it all in. Even though she was one of the youngest to compete in the qualifiers, it didn’t phase her at all. She takes after her mum and has fire in her belly.”
Ronan holds the view that Sarah has a exciting future ahead of her in show jumping.
“Obviously we are very proud of her, it is just amazing and it definitely motivates us. Showjumping is very much a team effort and there are lots of great events locally for children who are finding their way in all different levels.
Sarah’s aunt Cathy will also be competing at the show in the amateur category.
The Balmoral Show takes place between May 15 and May 18.
For more information visit www.balmoralshow.co.uk