Sixteen-year-old Ben Walsh who is based at Malin Stables in Malin Town was crowned FEI pony jumping champion in Belgium last week.
This is a pony competition at the very highest level and Ben and his pony, Derryvane Belle were in top form throughout.
Both rider and horse have been in superb form for a long time, having excelled at the European Pony Trials and the Nations Cup.
They finished second at both the FEI Ponies Jumping Trophy in events in Lyon and Stuttgart, which meant they headed into the event in Belgium in second place overall but following a clear round in their third last go, Ben and Derryvane Belle were crowned champions.
It’s a major achievement for the 16-year-old and speaking to the Inishowen Independent, Caroline McLaughlin from the Malin Stables told of her pride in what Ben has been able to achieve.
“Ben has put in so much hard work with my husband Ronan at the stables and we’re all extremely proud of what he has done.
“He was so close to making the Irish team last year for the Europeans but he didn’t let that disappointment get him down and he has been just brilliant.
“We have always had such a massive belief in Ben and we knew he had the ability to achieve big things, so we’re all just over the moon.”
The Malin Stables have been going now for 30 years with a riding school for young newcomers and a professional set up for riders like Ben, who want to go to the very top in the sport.
Caroline is hoping that Ben’s achievements can now inspire more riders to follow their dreams.
“I think Ben is now a great example for anybody and that if you have dreams, as long as you work hard, you can go on and achieve those dreams.”