Read horse rider wins bronze for GB in Belgium endurance contest

Teenage equestrian Kate Atkinson is riding high after winning a bronze medal with the Great Britain team in a top European endurance event.

Kate (15) from Read, was the youngest in a four-strong team in the FEI European Young Rider Endurance Championships at Mont le Soie, in Belgium, where 19 national teams were competing on a super-tough 120-km Ardennes mountain route. It was Britain’s first junior medal win in the competition in 15 years.

Kate’s determined performance, riding her 13-year-old bay Arab gelding Vanash to 23rd place overall helped the GB team to clinch bronze as one of the only three teams to have the required minimum three riders complete the course.

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Team mates Carri-Ann Dark and Beth Langley, both in their last year of junior competition, came in 14th and 18th. France won gold and Italy silver.

Kate, a pupil of Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, has been riding since she was a tot, and her parents, Andrew and Rachael Atkinson, own and run Readwood Equestrian Centre at Read. They went to Belgium with Kate and worked with other members of the 35-strong GB support crew. Rachael said: “We knew the team was up for bronze, but we didn’t tell Kate until the very end.

“It was Kate’s best performance to date. It’s a tough course, very hilly and stony, with vet checkpoints every 40km to check on the horses.”

Kate rides for a couple of hours every day and competes nearly every weekend. This is her first year on Vanash, previously her mum’s mount in senior competitions. To prepare for the endurance ride, Kate went to Belgium in April with two team mates for a trial run.

Chef d’equipe Helen Boston said: “Our riders went really well from start to finish. What they learned in April and passed on to the other team members has really ensured the squad was fully prepared.”

Kate’s sporting achievements were recognised locally when she won the Rising Star Award in the Ribble Valley Sports and Community Awards last month. Now moving up the ranks and with six more years ahead in junior competition, she hopes to be selected for Young Rider World Championships in France, next July.