Well done to Izzy and Perfect Stranger
- Credit: Archant
As a British Showjumping course designer I am lucky enough to be able to enjoy watching equestrian sport at all levels, from pony club children just starting out to Olympic riders at the pinnacle of their career.
The last three days of my British Eventing (BE) season at Little Downham Horsetrials was no exception.
Saturday was an emotional day, with 34 competitors rising to the Wobble Berry Challenge to complete a BE 80 cm event and contribute to the hundreds of thousands of pounds raised for Hannah's Willberry Wonder Pony Charity, founded by Hannah Francis in March 2016 to raise money to fulfil two principal objectives – to fund research into osteosarcoma and to provide equestrian experiences ('Willberry's Wishes') to seriously ill people. My challenge was to set an achievable showjumping course that would prepare competitors for the cross-country phase and allow the maximum number of people to complete before dusk. Six combinations showjumped clear and 22 produced clear cross-country rounds, collecting only a few time faults. Every competitor at the prize-giving felt like a winner, having achieved their goal. The marquee was packed. I have never been hugged by so many exuberant, slightly older ladies! Alice Brown and Castle Blakeney Puzzle were deserving winners of the class. I was delighted to see Jane Salmon, Caroline Oaks and Debbie Weymouth all finish well up the leader board; I have seen how hard they have worked over the last year.
The Mitsubishi BE 90 Regional Final was hotly contested, with 45 combinations coming forward, chasing nine qualifying places for the Badminton final next May. Twenty-nine posted double clear rounds in the showjumping and the cross-country. Charlotte Bull and Cheeky Casper finished on their dressage score of 22.1 to take the top spot. Joanne Watts was delighted to qualify both her home-bred Darc Legend and Deidre Hunt's Chilham Temple Bar.
With only eight dressage penalties separating the top from the bottom, 33 out of 37 clear cross-country in the Mitsubishi BE 100 Regional Final, a mistake in the showjumping could cost a qualification place. Morgan Wyatt and Baylew Enigma led from the start and finished on their excellent dressage score of 27.3.
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With several double clears, it was the time taken on the cross-country which helped Izzy Taylor and Perfect Stranger to victory in the Lettergold Advanced section, just ahead of Andrew Nicholson and the reigning Junior European Champion, Suffolk-based Bubby Upton, fresh from winning the seven-year-old championships with Cola at Osberton International Horse trials, lying second in the The Goldman Cup which is awarded annually to the leading Under 21 rider at the end of the season, who also had a fourth in the under 21s. Bubby is a regular at local British Showjumping Events, perfecting her showjumping to make sure all three phases go well.
Caroline Powell, team bronze medal winner in 2012 for New Zealand, has been based in Suffolk since 2013 and is another rider who has an excellent showjumping eye and recorded five showjumping clear rounds from her six horses.
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For many years eventing was all about the cross-country; now everyone seems to have perfected their dressage and is producing horses that are true all-round athletes. The showjumping is often the influential phase. In the under 21s there were half as many clears showjumping as there were cross-country. Having watched nearly 1,000 combinations jump a course of show jumps over the weekend, technical advisor David Merret asked me if I thought the standard of riding in British Showjumping has improved as much as it has in British Eventing. I have to say that as more and more eventers spend time practising their showjumping, the pure showjumpers are going to have to look out.
The Horsetrials season in East Anglia starts in March at Isleham and concludes in October at Little Downham. I calculated that I have been at 14 BE events and watched about 8,000 showjumping rounds. No wonder I have to paint the jump poles so often!