British reining rider Josh Collins could be forgiven for feeling on the outer of the team that has just been named to contest the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games – only because he’s not related to the other three members.
In what may be a first for a World Championship event, the British Reining team heading to Normandy, France in August, boasts three family members in its ranks. Joining Collins on the team is Doug Allen, his wife Francesca Sternberg, and their niece, Jessica Sternberg. All three live in Bodiam, East Sussex.
It is the first World Games for Jessica Sternberg and Josh Collins, both 24. It is also the first appearance for Britain for Shane Borland, 42,who has been selected as an individual for Team GBR. He previously competed for South Africa at two previous World Games.
Borland said he was excited to be part of the squad. Now based at Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, he has lived in Britain for 17 years, but says he’s a “very patriotic South African”. Of his change in allegiance, he said: “It’s a tough thing and there are lots of reasons behind the change; although I’ve been here for nearly seventeen years now I’m a very patriotic South African so switching nationality was a difficult decision.
“That said I’ve lived in England for so long and achieved so much due to the support I’ve had over here that I’m proud to be going to Normandy to compete under the GB banner.
“Competing at a WEG is very important to me, not just because it showcases our sport on a world level but also due to the unique nature of the event with all the disciplines coming together – it’s our next best thing to the Olympics.
It will be the fourth World Games for Doug Allen, 55. “It’s really exciting to be selected. I’m just as excited about this one as I was for my first. I think we have a good team and good horses; we have a team of experienced riders with three of us having ridden at previous WEGs and I think we have a good chance of getting things done out there.
“It should be really fun and I’m really looking forward to going. In Lexington we used borrowed horses but with Normandy being so much closer to home we can take our own; we know our horses really well and will feel much more prepared and confident. My wife has been on all three of the previous WEG teams with me and this year with Jessica, being able to do this as a family and having a good delegation of British support out in Normandy will make it pretty special.”
Francesca Sternberg, 51, said having Jessica on the team would be very special in Normandy. “The young riders are our future and it will be a very special feeling in Normandy. I think it’s going to be a very cohesive team; Josh has ridden with us since he was 11 and Josh and Jessica have been on Young Rider teams together in the past. It just shows that young riders coming up through the ranks can make it onto senior teams and I’d be more than happy if Jessica superseded anything I do out at WEG. It’s fabulous that it’s so close to home, and although Kentucky was an amazing event, it makes it more comfy for us, much more like a normal European horse show that we compete at throughout the year.”
Jessica Sternberg said it was an honour to be representing Britain. “I’m so excited; it will be so much fun. You want everyone to do well and it’s nice that you get to share the experience.”
Josh Collins, from Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent, said as he’s known the Sternbergs for so years “it’ll be a little easier as we’re all on the same wavelength. I’m really excited to see the other events; I think it will be one of the highlights and to support the other Brits as well. We’ll have a strong contingent of fans heading out to support us, one of the beauties of it being so close to home.”
Will Connell, Chef de Mission said the squad was underpinned by the huge depth of experience of Francesca and Doug, “but it’s great to see three athletes making their debut for GBR at a World Championships.”
Chef d’Equipe for the team is Adam Heaton. The four named in the team (where the best three scores count towards the team result) also compete as individuals.
Reining at the Games takes place from August 25 to 30.
Equestrian Team GBR is supported by the UK Sport Lottery funded World Class Programme; the British teams are very grateful to the support they receive from official Team GBR suppliers Dodson and Horrell, Land Rover, Mears Country Jackets, NAF, Nuumed, Point Two Equine, Tagg Equestrian and Toggi.