PROMISING dressage rider Eve Francis put in an encouraging performance at her debut at the National Championships to finish 17th.

The 13-year-old St Gabriel's RC High School pupil qualified for the British Dressage tournament, which was held at Bury Farm Equestrian Club in Slapton, Buckinghamshire, by finishing fourth in the North West regionals.

She has been trained by Sally Ashworth at Birtles Riding School in Bury.

It was also a first appearance at the nationals for Eve's pony, Summer, but she did not disappoint, despite some concern from Eve's father John Francis.

“Summer has never competed at this level before, and we were very lucky she was not spooked by the sophistication of the competition area, with advertising hoardings, flower tubs everywhere and an audience seating area for up to 600 people.

"Summer has a very healthy appetite, and there was some concern she might stop during the test to eat some of the flowers in the tubs, as it was clear to she had her eye on them.

"Thankfully, Eve and Summer made it through their routine and earned a very good score."

Eve was 17th out of 25 riders after earning a score of 62.61 per cent, with the winner scoring just over 70 per cent.

John added: "For me this was an unbelievable success.

“Eve only started competing this time last year and the standard of the riding at the national level is so very high.

“We had a fantastic time, from hiring the horse box and rounding up helpers, to stuffing hay nets and driving all the way to Buckinghamshire.

“We arrived home 10pm – exhausted and exhilarated. It was just a wonderful experience.”