NATIMUK'S Jessika Hill has been named Equestrian Victoria's Young Ambassador of the Year for vaulting.
Hill, 20, received her award at Equestrian Victoria's annual presentation dinner at Werribee Racecourse on Saturday might.
The young ambassador awards are presented each year by Equestrian Victoria to outstanding young competitors in the disciplines of dressage, show jumping, show horse, eventing and vaulting.
Vaulting is a relatively small equestrian discipline in Australia but is extremely popular in Europe.
It involves performing gymnastic and dance-based routines while mounted on a horse.
Hill's win was made even more impressive by the fact she only took up vaulting last year.
She said she was honoured to win the award from an experienced field of competitors.
"It was pretty surprising and I didn't expect it to happen because I haven't done vaulting for that long compared with the other girls I was against," she said.
"Since I was young I've always loved horses and I always danced as well so when I saw it for the first time when I was 10, I thought it was pretty amazing.
"When I got the opportunity to start doing it last year in Horsham I couldn't say no."
Hill took up the sport with Horsham Riding for the Disabled Association coach Tina Pallot and now trains in Melbourne with Vaulting Victoria chairwoman Stephanie Vincent-Fox.
Vaulting is the only equestrian discipline that can be integrated with RDA events.
Hill said it was hard to balance eight hours of training a week with a social life and university commitments in Melbourne, but she was passionate about continuing.
Hill was shortlisted for the young ambassador award after an excellent performance at the Victorian State Vaulting Championships at
Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre last month.
Her strong competition results caught the eye of Equestrian Victoria selectors, who invited her back for a two-day workshop at the end of last month with 39 other competitors from all disciplines.
She was named as one of three vaulting finalists after the workshop, before being announced as the winner on Saturday.
Hill said the shortlisted riders were tested not only on their skills, but their intelligence and aptitude for promoting the sport.
She said she was excited to be able to raise the profile of vaulting within Australia.
"As an ambassador, I need to try to promote and grow it and get more people involved," Hill said.
"I think this year my goal will be to try to get it out there and get as many people in as I can because not many people have even heard of it before."
Vincent-Fox said Hill was a deserving winner and would be a great spokeswoman for the sport.