LOCAL showjumping sensation Jessica Mendoza is allowing herself to dream of a trip to the Rio Olympics after being included on the British Equestrian Federation's World Class Development Programme for the next two years.
Mendoza, the St Mary’s Calne schoolgirl who has procured a reputation as one of the top young talents in the sport, was named last week on a list of 15 jumpers who will receive top quality mentoring and coaching, as well as access to human and equine sports science and medicine expertise over the course of the next 24 months.
Having shot to fame with a series of impressive performances on the pony and domestic circuits, Mendoza topped off 2012 with a second-placed finish aboard Tixylix in the JJ Junior Stakes at Olympia before Christmas.
Now the Tockenham-based rider is preparing for a rigorous 2013, as she challenges herself in senior competition and lets one eye drift towards the possibility of an Olympic call-up in three-and-a-half years’ time.
“I was really pleased to be named on the programme. I didn’t expect to be on it because I’m still quite young,” she said.
“Hopefully it will help in terms of getting sponsorship, funding, training and being able to have that kind of support will be really good. It’s a really big opportunity for me and I’m very excited about it.
“I’m not quite sure exactly what it will be about but it will help out a lot financially with the cost of training and stuff like that.
“The Olympics is what everyone looks at, I don’t know. It depends if I get to have a good horse. Four years is a long time and I’ll be 20 by then so you never know. It’s something I’d love to do.
“The Senior Nations Cups would also be good in maybe the next few years and some five-star shows as well.”
Like the rest of the riders on the programme, which covers the equine disciplines of eventing, dressage, showjumping and para-dressage, Mendoza will be assessed every six months by the BEF authorities.
As she embarks on the most challenging period of her blossoming career to date, however, the former Pinewood School pupil is more than ready to prove what a star she can become.
“I only got back to riding at the beginning of last year after breaking my ankle and when I got back I was a bit rusty but I got going and the year went pretty well,” she said.
“I was pleased with how it went at Olympia, both horses rode well, although it was a bit disappointing to come second.
“I’m completely onto horses now, I’m off ponies, so I’m hoping to compete in a lot of the European events and travel a bit more. My school lets me take my work with me so I can do it when I’m away and competing. It can be tough but it’s part of it.”