LARA GRIFFITH left the chill of the Cotswolds on Wednesday for seven weeks in the Florida sun – a move which she hopes will ultimately lead to a place on the GB dressage team at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

When Lara moved from Oxfordshire four years ago to become second rider at the world-renowned stables of Dr and Mrs Bechtolsheimer in Ampney St Peter she thought she was taking the ‘dream job’.

Little did she know that the dream job would take her to a whole new level.

First rider at the stables is, of course, the good doctor’s daughter, Olympic team gold medal-winning Laura Tomlinson.

But Laura took a sabbatical from the competitive arena after her successful London 2012 companion Mistral Hojris was retired. She got married to international polo player Mark Tomlinson and subsequently had a baby, Annalisa, which thrust her pupil Lara into the spotlight. Lara was given the responsibility of taking the reins on Laura’s number two Grand Prix horse Andretti H.

Such was her success that 26-year-old Lara earned a late ‘wildcard’ on to the World Class Development programme for future stars.

When Andretti H was himself retired at the end of 2014 her prospects of competing at the very highest level appeared to have temporarily been put on hold.

But such is the conveyor belt of talent at Ampney St Peter that both Laura and Lara have embryo Grand Prix candidates that they are bringing along.

Asked whether her ride Rubin Al Asad (aka Rufus) and Laura’s partner Unique (Minnie) have too big a gulf to cross to become A-list stars this season, Lara is having none of it.

“The dream is for us both to make the GB dressage team in the European Championships in August and then, of course, Rio the following year,” she insisted.

“Both horses are already training at Grand Prix level at home. Next they have to prove it in competition.

“But I believe we will be a team to be reckoned with in 2015.”

Rufus and Minnie are part of a quintet of horses that Laura and Lara are taking to Florida in an attempt, literally, to hothouse their talents.

“We will be based at Wellington for seven weeks until the end of March and the plan is that we can compete outside on a regular basis at one venue with no need for any travelling,” said Lara.

“I think we are the only British dressage riders going over there and hopefully we can come back and land running for the start of the summer season in Europe.

“It will be a whole new experience for me and I can’t wait. I’m hoping the weather proves a great motivator.”

Lara worked with double Olympian Emile Faurie for seven years at his base near Milton-under-Wychwood before joining the Bechtolsheimers near Cirencester.

“Laura is both my boss and my mentor,” said Lara.

“She was back riding three weeks after she had Annalisa and while she was not competing she would train me every day.

“I like to think a great level of trust has been built up and it is really nice to feel part of the family.”

The results speak for themselves. She won a national championship aboard Rufus at Stoneleigh Park last year and became a non-travelling reserve for Team GB at the World Equestrian Games.

And in December it was announced that she was one of 11 elite dressage riders to join the 2014-16 World Class Development Programme – no wildcard necessary this time.

“The Florida trip is going to prove so valuable,” she said. “Horses change so much away in competition compared to at home. I think we will learn a huge amount.

“Rufus is a little boy and like all little boys he needs his hand holding some time.

“But I truly believe that both he and Minnie can make the transition to the top level this year.” Along with Rubin Al Asad, Lara will be riding Kristjan in Florida, while Laura will be partnering Pamina and Dolcevendy (Dotty) in addition to Unique.