TAKE a beautiful Italian woman, a ballroom-dancing comedian and the glamorous world of dressage - it’s the stuff of the modern day rom-com.

However, this is the life of Francesca Pollara, from Sunhill Stud near Meysey Hampton, who has been long-listed by her country for the London 2012 Olympics – despite never representing Italy in an international competition.

The Olympic dream has been made possible by a six-strong syndicate which was put together with the help of Strictly Come Dancing star Rory Bremner.

Thanks to the syndicate’s financial muscle, Francesca now has a horse with the potential to take her all the way to Greenwich Park next August.

Born in Pescara, Francesca grew up on the beautiful Adriatic coast. The daughter of a doctor, she had to fight for the chance to ride after her sister was badly injured in a riding accident the day she was due to begin her own lessons.

However, sheer determination won through and in the years that followed Francesca had a successful career in show jumping, before moving on to eventing. After discovering that she excelled at the flatwork, she began competing at dressage and moved to England 13 years ago to further her career.

Since then, she has produced top horses for other owners, as well being an agent, finding horses for riders such as Mark Todd, Zara Phillips and William Fox-Pitt.

She has a Flat trainer’s licence, a lady rider’s licence, as well as an instructor qualification, and she teaches regularly. But riding remains her real passion.

“A few years ago I bought my first ‘project’ horse and I brought him up to Prix St Georges level, with the intention of going Grand Prix,” explained Francesca. “But he started having injuries on and off and it was then that I thought ‘I’m never going to compete internationally for Italy’.”

Francesca has been lucky to have the support of her friends and colleagues in the industry and at the beginning of this year a syndicate was formed to help launch her international career.

Enough money was raised to purchase a German-bred stallion, Don Bubano, a 15-year-old liver chestnut.

He now resides at Francesca’s own equestrian utopia in the Cotswolds, Sunhill Stud, where the superb facilities have come together by dint of her own hard work.

They include a fantastic indoor arena with recently-installed mirrors, provided by her generous sponsor Mirrors For Training.

Among her pupils are the children of the famous satirist Bremner – a great friend of Francesca and her husband – as well as Bremner’s wife Tessa.

“We held a drinks party at the Royal Air Force Club in London earlier in the year to launch the syndicate and Rory volunteered to help. He did a big cabaret for me and the evening was a great success.”

So successful in fact, that Francesca was able to fly over to Germany to choose her horse, Don Bubano, who was in the care of Jonny Hilberath, now the trainer of the German senior dressage team.

“Jonny thought we would make a good couple,” said Francesca. “Don Bubano is only 16hh, but we look very proportionate. He’s a very old fashion dressage horse with lots of character.”

Don Bubano, who arrived only last month, has now settled in well, although he proved to be just as much a diva in the stable as he is in the ring. “He didn’t like his stable so we had to keep changing it until we found one he liked,” said Francesca.

“Now he comes out every day with so much presence and he shouts to tell everyone he is out and about.”

The real work starts here. To be selected for the Italian team, Francesca must score 64 per cent twice in front of an Olympic judge, just like every other potential competitor.

“If everything goes well, my first International competition will be in December,” she said.

“I really wanted to ride at Olympia, however it is more sensible to go to Portugal for two weeks and ride two back-to-back tests. There will be less pressure.”

Italy does not have a team trainer so David Holmes, ex-Chief Executive of British Dressage, will stand in as Chef d’Equipe.

But it is down to the members of the very young Italian team to focus on training themselves.

“David has been very supportive, but he has left us to our own devices as far as competitions are concerned.

“Our main issue is that Italy didn’t qualify for the Olympics (at the FEI European Dressage Championships) in Rotterdam, so the other established riders, who have had their horses for a while, have the job of earning ranking points in order for us to be able to compete.”

In the meantime, Francesca is committed to training hard and developing her relationship with Don Bubano, as well as promoting her syndicate and gaining essential sponsors, such as Horse Fair and the National Saddle Centre.

“Sponsors are crucial to us riders, we couldn’t do without their support,” she said.

She trains in England with Spencer Wilton, an acclaimed dressage rider based near Tetbury, who has been an invaluable source of support and advice.

Success for other local riders such as Laura Bechtolsheimer and Carl Hester has helped bring the grace and glamour of the sport to global attention.

And having been an eventer, show jumper, racehorse trainer and dressage rider, Francesca knows which discipline she prefers.

“It takes more adrenaline to ride a dressage horse than it does an eventer or a racehorse,” she said.

“You are sitting on a ticking bomb which could go off any second.

“But when they listen to you and when you get it all right, they will work harder for you than anything else.”