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Lincolnshire equestrian starlet poses question over funding in wake of Olympics

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: September 24, 2012

Impressing: Young rider Darbi Murphy

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The heroics of William Fox-Pitt and Zara Phillips in the Olympics and Lincolnshire's Sophie Wells at the Paralympics has lifted British equestrian to prominence this summer.

But a mum from West Lindsey has questioned whether the success of the London Games will actually benefit Britain's talented young riders of the future.

Sandra Murphy, of Nettleton, near Caistor, says she is becoming increasingly frustrated after failing to obtain significant financial support for her daughter Darbi, despite her being selected for the Lincolnshire Elite Athletes Programme.

Darbi, who attends De Aston School in Market Rasen, has been riding since she was 18 months old and took part in her first individual competition when she was five.

She became a member of the BSJA aged seven and competed in her first BE event aged 11 years.

She has her sights set firmly on the next Olympic Games in Rio in four years' time, but single mum Sandra, a third year Equine Sports Science student at Lincoln University, is increasingly concerned her daughter's burgeoning talent will be held back due to the lack of financial muscle.

"Who do I turn to and where do I go? We are being told we will see a legacy from the Olympics which will benefit athletes of the future," said Sandra.

"I hope that is the case, but I am at my wits end.

"It worries me that the constant financial struggle will cause Darbi to lose her way.

"I think, in this sport more than others, you need to have financial backing.

"We have bred and reared her horse (Jessie's Lovely Tinker) ourselves and it is kept at a rented field and rented farm building.

"We don't need help for that, but even to enter a competition takes money. Then you have to travel there and transport the horse and for that, you do need money.

"The frustrating thing is that I see how talented she is. We have all these struggles, but then she competes against people with much more financial backing behind them and she goes and beats them.

"It would be fantastic to see how good she could be with a little money behind her.

"I would dearly love to hear from individuals or companies who could help us. I know it's tough for people at the moment, but I am hoping someone somewhere will have been inspired by Britain's success at the Olympics."

Darbi is currently supported by the Lincolnshire Sports Partnership after being selected for their Elite Athletes Programme (Level One). She receives just £100 per year for being on that programme and will soon have to re-apply for the next level (Level Two). If successful she would receive just £250 per year.

Gill Barham, Regional Development Co-ordinator for the British Equestrian Federation, admits it is difficult for young riders and says the legacy from the London Games comes in the shape of exposure and increased participation in the sport.

"I don't agree that only those with access to financial support can succeed," she said.

"More often than not, it is the passion and dedication of people that gets them to where they want to be. People who are successful, those we have seen in the recent Olympic Games, were once a young Darbi themselves.

"I am afraid there are a lot of people just like Darbi out there and it's tough. This country is very good at bringing youngsters through to that level, but taking the next step is very difficult, because she will have to move up to better horses.

"It's not just about funding, but also about opportunity and being in the right place at the right time. I am sure there will be people already who have their eye on Darbi, people who may have been inspired to support someone for the next Games."

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