A MORPETH schoolgirl was able to receive expert advice from her sporting hero during a visit to his yard.
Following a few years of supporting messages and after meeting him during a competition, Olympic bronze medallist Jonathan ’Jock’ Paget invited Niamh Goldsmith to his base in Surrey for a few days.
He gave her plenty of top tips in both the dressage and show jumping disciplines as she rode her horse, King.
She explained that she and mum Emma were at the Burghley Horse Trials in 2010 and because the rest of the spectators were cheering for the well-known British riders, they decided to cheer for Paget who was then just starting out at major equestrian events.
The 13-year-old followed him on Facebook and met him at Burghley two years later. And the family were thrilled when she was invited to the yard at Dunsfold.
“Jock has given me some excellent advice via Facebook and when he said I could go down to his base for a few days for some riding lessons, I was bouncing off the roof,” she said.
“We were welcomed by Holly, one of his grooms, when we arrived on the evening and the next morning we were shown around the yard and Jock was riding. He explained what he was doing at different stages.
“I did some dressage riding in the afternoon and he gave me some useful pointers, as well as going through the passing of the hand technique.
“The next day was show jumping and he gave some advice on what I should do when approaching the jump, going over the jump and once we land.
“It’s amazing that Jock took the time to help me so much and he was very complimentary of my riding and King.
“I needed to change my riding style when I switched from ponies to King, but I’m getting used to it and since the visit to Dunsfold, he feels like a different horse. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming season of competitions.”
The King Edward VI School student has been a member of Morpeth Hunt Pony Club since the age of six.
King was originally her mum’s horse but after she had a fall and broke her arms, Niamh took over.
Paget was part of the New Zealand team that won bronze in the team eventing competition at the 2012 Olympics in London.
He is currently fighting to clear his name after one of the horses he rides, Clifton Promise, tested positive for reserpine, a banned substance, in October.
Mrs Goldsmith said: “Niamh and King hit it off straightaway and I know I’m not going to get him back.
“It was an absolute dream for her to have lessons with her idol and she learned so much during the visit. Hopefully, she will have a good season.
“We thought that under the circumstances, Jock would not have time for her to go to the yard, but he and the staff were fantastic with her the whole time we were there and he gave her plenty of invaluable advice.”
Niamh, who lives in Molesden, has two sponsors – Taylors Agricultural Supplies, Benridge, and The Black Horse Shop, Whitehouse Farm Centre.