AMELIA Fitzgerald has taken third place in the two-star competition at the Canberra International One Day horse trials event last weekend.
Fitzgerald, who now resides in Canberra but has her roots firmly in Gympie, said she was thrilled with the result in the first event after the winter break.
"I love riding, I love the adrenaline rush, could say I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie I suppose,” Fitzgerald said.
"It was a massive shock.
"After the first phase we were second last and I was not expecting to move up so well after how well we coped on the cross-country course.”
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The 25-year-old rider has been polishing her skills while attending university and has been working hard at the three disciplines within the sport's event.
"We were in the two-star competition - to put that into perspective, the Olympics is considered 3.5 stars,” she said.
"The first phase, the dressage, was a personal best score for myself and my horse - Luna.
"Dressage is not our forte, she's not a flash-moving horse and suffers from a medical condition called head shaking, or easily put - she has hayfever, causing her to shake her head from pollen irritation.
"The showjumping was our second phase, I was incredibly nervous.
"After the first fence, it all just came naturally, she just knows her job these days.
Coming into the final stage, Fitzgerald was nervous but her mount knew the job.
"Cross-country was our final phase; again I was nervous before starting but once we got galloping those nerves disappeared. She was just so on the job, full of running and brave as,” she said.
"She just took everything in her stride, including some big fences and difficult combination fences.
"I was beaming the whole way around and across the line, constantly praising and patting her for being so great and looking after me.”
The former Gympie State High School student was 16th in a field of 17 after the dressage stage but made up her placing in the cross country leg.
"The competition was tough, as I stated, I was second last after dressage,” she said.
"The cross country was definitely where it was all sorted out; placings didn't change much after the show jumping but there were a few falls and a few eliminations on the cross country which made our clear round even more impressive.”
Thea Horsely was the winner of the event, a talented junior rider from NSW.
Fitzgerald entered the sport late when compared to her fellow riders who have generally been riding her whole life.
She got her first pony when she was 11 and began riding at 15.
"Training for this event has focused mainly on our weakest phase, the dressage,” she said.
"My coach Jim Collin has been fantastic helping me go through the test and work on the movements that are awarded the highest score.
"My mare, Luna, for the jumping phases, simply needs confidence.
"The practice and the confidence makes the difference on the day.”
The recently graduated student reserved special praise for her companion.
"When I am riding, especially on my main girl, Luna, I feel as though we are a true partnership, a real team,” she said.
"We tackle it together, no matter what it is.
"If I'm confident, she is and vice versa.
"It's the greatest feeling having a creature trust you this much.”
Fitzgerald looks up to a number of mentors who have helped her develop as a rider.
"My current dressage coach is Jim Collins. One of my main mentors is another successful Gympie rider; Brett Cantle,” she said.
"He was my first jumping instructor at age 13 and continued right up until I left Gympie.”
Fitzgerald's goal now is to attend the International Adelaide Three-Day Event in November.
"This is one of the few four-star competitions in the world
"Of course, I will only be competing in the two-star competition but the stigma and environment surrounding this event is massive,” she said.
"I desperately want to compete and finish this event, I wouldn't care if I came last, I just want to say I completed Adelaide.
"In the far future I would love to compete in a four-star competition or compete internationally, particularly on one of my young horses I have bred,” Fitzgerald said.