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Phoebe for 2012?

Professional event rider Phoebe Buckley has ridden against Princess Anne's daughter, Zara Phillips, and hopes to compete in the London 2012 Olympics – reports the BBC.

But as a Romany Gypsy moving in what can be a privileged world, it is sometimes hard going, and Phoebe says there can be discrimination.

Her parents were born and brought up in wagons and lived on the side of the road, but when Phoebe was born they decided to settle in Cambridge.

Phoebe started riding horses at the age of four. "Every girl wants a pony so I badgered and badgered. My parents went to Cambridge cattle market and bought a very cheap horse for me and I just got hooked," she says.

She moved to event riding aged 12, which she admits is fairly late compared to many others.

"We thought it was just a phase and she'll grow out of it," says Phoebe's father Tom, "but the more she got into it the better she did and the more she wanted to do it."

After leaving school aged 13 - something which is common for many Romany Gypsy children - she started working for professional event riders Tanya Kyle and Toni Liddle.

Toni "broke in" young racehorses for champion trainer Henry Cecil and it was while working alongside her that Phoebe developed an interest in competing.

"She took me under her wing. I got really in to the eventing and the competition side and it all escalated from there really."

 
Phoebe hopes that her achievements will encourage other Romany Gypsy women Phoebe owns two horses called Flash Gordon and Identity Crisis. She is particularly attached to Flash Gordon, but she worries that she might have to sell him to raise money.

"Quite often, the very good horses get 'spotted' and if you are offered a lot of money for your own horse, it's very hard to turn that down, even if the horse is the one that potentially is an Olympic horse."

Within the Romany Gypsy community it is frowned upon to have a credit card or loan, and because Phoebe's parents are unable to provide her with financial backing, it has made things difficult.

"It's a rich person's sport," says Phoebe's father Tom. "Most of the top jobs the [horse's] owners pay for... if it wasn't for that, she wouldn't be able to afford to do it."

In 2009, she competed against the former Eventing World Champion Zara Phillips at the Badminton Horse Trials.

"It was 'the princess against the pauper' and it was funny because Zara is not like that at all, I think she found it as funny as I did."

"Yes, she has more opportunities sponsorship-wise than me, because she is who she is, and equally I got loads of press because I am who I am.

"And there are plenty of people in the middle who are as talented as me and Zara who don't get any. So we take it for what it is."

But Phoebe has also found that for the majority of event riders background is not important.

"It's all about working hard, having luck, getting your head down and getting on with it."