‘I would be lying if I said there wasn’t some rivalry...’
- Credit: Archant
They're having an amazing time flying the flag for Great Britain, but this week the county's showjumping sisters focus on their own back yard and The Royal Norfolk Show
It probably doesn't get much better for Norfolk showjumping siblings India and Atiya Bussey. They were in Austria last month: 13-year-old Atiya representing Great Britain on the Children On Horses (U14) team – and beginning with a clear round. The team came second. Sister India, 17, was selected to go out to Lamprechtshausen as an individual in the Juniors (U18) section and also competed in the U25s.
Now comes news that Atiya has been chosen for British Showjumping's Team NAF Children European Championship squad for an event being held in Fontainebleau, France, next month.
On the eve of The Royal Norfolk Show, where their skills will be on display, Steven Russell asked them about life, dreams and how it all started:
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Atiya: I have been around horses and ponies for as long as I can remember and started out in the Pony Club. When I was seven I began to compete in BS (British Showjumping) classes and gradually worked my way up to the bigger classes.
At the age of 11 I competed in my first senior (horse) competition and have continued jumping at these shows to date, along with competing the ponies.
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This year has been a huge step up for me, competing at my first show abroad in March to prepare me for the European Trials at Chepstow in April.
After an amazing show at Chepstow I was selected to compete in Austria and then Holland on the Great British team for Children On Horses (age 12 to 14), with my incredible horse Chesterfield Z.
In Holland we did particularly well, claiming 4th in the Grand Prix. Over these past few months my riding has developed massively and I have gained masses more experience whilst competing at these fantastic venues.
India: My biggest achievement to date would be winning a team silver medal at the European Championships for Children On Horses. Riding with the GB flag on my jacket had always been a dream of mine, so to fulfil it was a fantastic feeling for myself and my team, who all work so hard in order for us to be successful.
As with most people, I started out on 128s and worked my way through the pony divisions, while I started riding horses aged 12. I have vivid memories of falling off my first few ponies often – you have to start somewhere!
Atiya: My earliest memory with horses would be on my legendary pony Bob. He taught me so much about riding and how showjumping goes, giving me the best start I could have wished for.
India: My earliest memories of horses would be learning to ride on my first pony, Bertie. Bertie worked his way through our family, teaching my cousins to ride before myself and Atiya. He was strawberry roan and aptly named the 'pink pony', and he was truly a saint – he was dearly loved by all in the family.
I remember doing a hunter trial-type event at Berghapton with him and you had to dismount to open a gate. It panicked my grandparents to see Bertie cantering back to the lorry away from the course without a rider – little did they know I had simply forgotten to hold onto him!
Atiya: I think my passion for riding probably comes from my mother, who has spent most of her life around horses. As I have been around horses since I can remember, I couldn't imagine life without them.
India: I love seeing the horses improve and develop in their training. I think it is incredible how we are able to form such a strong partnership and level of trust with the horses to allow us to jump such big and testing courses.
Is it hard being sisters and riding? Is there any envy? Be honest!
Atiya: As the older sister, India has more experience and is a more developed rider than me, and is obviously competing at a higher level, but on the other hand she does lend a hand at home and at shows to help me get the right results from my horses and clearly wants me to achieve my goals.
It is also useful to have her input around (although it is often 'constructive criticism'!)
India: I think at the end of the day we both want to see each other doing well. It's a reflection of the hard work we know has been put into us being able to compete: from our own commitment to the sport to the huge commitment and effort from our home team at Wodehouse Stud (Hethel), which makes everything possible.
I would be lying if I said there wasn't some rivalry; however, it is no more than a bit of healthy competition, which in fact probably pushes us both to be better!
Has there ever been a moment when you felt like putting equestrianism on hold – to throw yourself 100% at ballroom dancing or chess, say?
Atiya: I have never considered stopping riding, and since I was little it has always been something that I have wanted to do for myself and not for anybody else. If I did ever want to stop riding I am sure I would be supported in that decision, but somehow I think that (stopping) is unlikely!
India: Horses are a full-time commitment and so the sport becomes like a lifestyle, in many ways, that other sports don't reflect. Having been born into an environment where horses have been part of my everyday life from the start, I find it hard to imagine life without horses.
Do you have time for anything else?
Atiya: With school and the horses, most of my time is taken, but I do enjoy doing art when I am not busy and spending time with my family – when we are not away at a show!
India: To be honest, already balancing the horses and my school work, additional hobbies and other things aren't easy to fit into the schedule.
I really enjoy doing art, whether it be painting or photography, and so that would be something I pursue in my 'free' time, if ever there is any.
Can you tell us about the trip to Lamprechtshausen?
Atiya: It felt amazing to even be selected to compete on the British team and was a huge step up for me. Ego started off the week with a win and Chester continued this form, helping the team to second in the Nations Cup, and just had an unlucky fence in the Grand Prix.
We were then invited to Wierden in Holland, where we did amazingly, going clear all week and picking up 4th in the Grand Prix!
India: Lamprechtshausen was a fantastic experience. I was asked to go as an individual rider for Team GB in the Juniors (Under 18s) with my very talented seven-year-old horse, Goldenboy.
With younger horses they have to be educated, and although we didn't win any competitions together out there, we achieved some placings and he will have learnt from the experience alone – jumping around the Nations Cup and Grand Prix courses hopefully setting us in good stead for next year.
What are your memories of the Royal Norfolk Show?
Atiya: I have memories of the Royal Norfolk Show from years and years ago. However, last year was my first year competing there. On the Wednesday I won the Emma Easton Memorial trophy for the 1m25 and on the Thursday I was announced the overall leading Norfolk rider – both on my horse Westwinds Ego.
This year I am taking both Ego and Chester. I was given the ride on Ego last year by India and he has helped me grow as a rider and become more confident, this year winning at all three international shows he has competed at!
Chester and I, however, are a relatively new partnership, and whilst it did take us a while to get used to each other, we are now on top form.
On Wednesday they are both competing in the 1m25 at midday in the Lighthorse Arena, and on Thursday in the 1m20 first class in the Main Arena. Fingers crossed!
India: I have been competing at the Norfolk Show since I was 12 in 2013. It was fantastic to win Leading Norfolk Rider in my first year competing there!
This year I will be jumping the Grade C in the Light Horse ring on Wednesday, which is a qualifier for the Horse of the Year Show, & the Ride & Drive on Thursday in the Main Ring, as I have recently passed my driving test!
I will be bringing Billy Colman, a seven-year-old horse by Cevin Z from The Billy Stud. Colman is jointly owned by my parents and William Funnell, and has recently had very good form, with numerous placings in Austria and Holland.
I will also be riding Florida VDL (aka Rosso), an eight-year-old horse who stands at 18 hands tall! I have had Rosso for just over a year now and have produced him through, and he recently jumped his first National Grand Prix at Wales and West – which happened to be my first also. He has heaps of scope, so hopefully we can get some good results this year.
How have you been preparing?
Atiya: In the run up to the Royal Norfolk Show my main focus is to keep the horses fit and happy. They have had a very busy season so far and will not have been to any shows on the weeks before, so hopefully they won't be too fresh!
India: Last week I was competing at Hickstead with three horses – two of which will be competing at the show this week and another younger homebred mate who has come through our breeding programme at Wodehouse Stud who is already showing great potential for the future at just five years old.
In the days leading up to the show I will be at school as I am currently in my first year of A-levels at Norwich School. Luckily the school is hugely supportive and so I will be able to compete both days at the show. Without the school's support it would be very difficult to do well with the horses, as it is such a full-time commitment, and I am so grateful to them for that.
What will you have to do to make your dreams come true?
Atiya: Obviously, as any aspiring showjumper would say, my ultimate dream would be to compete at the Olympics, and I hope to be able to compete at a high international level.
Of course, this is a lot to ask and would take lots of time and effort, and hard work!
India: My aim is to hopefully go on to be on Junior and Young Rider Nations Cups and then represent my country at senior level and ultimately to compete at the Olympics for Team GB!
In order to try and achieve my goals I will keep working hard and always look for ways to improve my riding.
I am lucky enough to already have some fantastic support behind myself and my team – sponsors Feedmark, Breckland Farriers, MakeBe Boutique & CWD Sellier help to make everything possible.
Equine excitement all the way at the Royal Norfolk Show
The Royal Norfolk Show is proving once again to be a prestigious date in the annual showing calendar, attracting competitors from as far afield as Cornwall and Scotland to contest the Cuddy, Horse of the Year Show and Royal International Horse Show qualifiers.
This week more than 1,400 entries will compete in 250 combined light horse, heavy horse and driving classes, with substantial silverware on offer for the championships.
Organisers are delighted to welcome entries from Her
Majesty the Queen in both inhand and ridden classes. Also coming are the reigning Supreme Pony of the Year ? Sharn Linney's diminutive Thistledown Van-der-Vaart in the Mountain & Moorland Lead Rein ? and, from Norfolk, Annabel Jenk's Supreme Horse of the Year, Diamonds are Forever – with Oliver Hood up top, adding extra sparkle to the Riding Horse classes.
New for this year are the Traditional Gypsy Cob classes, which have attracted strong entries. Once again the heavy horse classes ? which span inhand, ridden and driven turnouts ? are likely to be the Grand Ring show-stoppers, with substantial entries drawn from the Shire, Clydesdale, Percheron and of course Suffolk breeders and producers.
Private Driving features strong classes on the first day in the Wensum Ring.
The Concours d'Elegance is always a stunning spectacle and this year there are 14 entries, featuring many vintage carriages, including an 1880s Lady's Park Phaeton.
An exciting show-jumping programme over the two days has attracted such legends as Tim Stockdale and Graham Fletcher, although the Fletcher sons, Olli and Will, have taken over the driving seat from Dad.
At only 15, Olli is the youngest-ever Area Trial winner, taking the title at last month's Wales and West.
The Grand Ring commentary box will be very sadly missing Mike Tucker's voice after nearly 40 years. Mike passed away in March and organisers will hold a minute's silence in remembrance of him before the course walk for the Norfolk Area Trial at 12.45pm on Wednesday.
The commentary team has been reshuffled and now features Mike's protege and local man, Gareth Jenkins, who commentates at home and internationally. Joining Gareth will be John Stokes from Worcester and a name familiar to many: Nick Brooks-Ward.
The Royal Norfolk Show is on Wednesday and Thursday. For full details, see royalnorfolkshow.rnaa.org.uk