Sarah Carless reports….
There were two qualifiers for the British Eventing Arena Eventing series last weekend with Keysoe and Bold Heath attracting combined entries of more than 150 horses and riders.
This was the first of two arena eventing qualifiers to be held at Keysoe.
Toni York was the winner in the 80CM class with Araglen Tomahawk. It has been a remarkable journey for Toni who has owned Ton for four and a half years, but broke her neck in a car accident two years ago, and spent six months in a body brace not knowing if she would be able to ride again.
Toni told Eventing Worldwide: “It felt amazing to win. When I finally got the ok from my consultant Tom was rather fat after having six months off. His saddle didn’t fit so I used a new saddle fitter and had no end of problems with the new saddle. Tom began stopping, which was very unlike him, and I kept falling off, which was very unlike me, and I totally lost my confidence. We went to another saddle fitter and got another saddle and we started arena eventing as I was desperate to get back out there but I was finding it really jarring and painful to canter on the grass and I’d totally lost my nerve. I did some unaffiliated arena eventing last year and thought I’d give the BE ones a go this year. I read the qualification criteria and secretly thought to myself I’d love to qualify but didn’t want to get my hopes up. We also did our first ‘proper’ event at Aston Ie Walls, and we jumped double clear and finished 5th so I’m on a massive high at the moment! I’m planning to keep arena eventing over the winter and keep working on my confidence. And hopefully be ready to properly event next season.”
Linda Tallett and Chad III were the victors in the 90cm class. In 2016, Linda and Chad competed at the Mitsubishi Motors Cup Final at Badminton. But soon after Chad picked up a ligament injury which took us out of the remainder of the season and the beginning of 2017. But he is now back in competitive action and will be participating in the Wobbleberry Challenge in 2018 with Linda’s friend Michelle Johnson.
Linda told Eventing Worldwide: “With the excellent care from Jason Tyrell of Tyrell’s Equine Vets we were back in action in June this year. To keep ticking over during the winter I like to continue with arena events which is why we went to Keysoe for the arena eventing. My intention was to be as competitive as possible, I watched a few go around the course and could see the time was really tight and not many clears. I decided to just go for it. Chad is always up for some fun jumping so he was more than happy to oblige. I was thrilled to win, I didn’t expect we would as the competition was hot but Chad is just a super little horse and will do some impressive tight turns which suited this course. My plan is to do a couple more of the arena events and then be ready for the start of next season.”
Kerry Higgs and Maxine Smith (Daimler) shared the victory in the 100cm class. Riding Emor B, Kerry told Eventing Worldwide: “We had a ball at Keysoe. I’ve never done BE Arena Eventing and to be honest I didn’t even know how it was judged – I just rode the show jumping as I would at an event then took the handbrake off on the cross-country section. Goochy is a little pocket rocket, clever at tricky lines cross country but I had to remember a very twisty course so was still careful and aware of the joker fence … every eventers nemesis. I was absolutely delighted to find out we’d won. We brought Goochy for my daughter but he was too much for her so I decided to bring him on and sell him but that was a few years ago. He is totally under my skin I have such a bond with him. He is however the class clown with a great sense of humour sometimes at the worst moments but always puts a smile on my face. He has given me my best moment eventing ever by winning our 105 section at Little Downham and jumping some fabulous cross country rounds this season. We will be looking forward to the champs at Aston Le Walls in February.”
Rosie Rickett and Chevalian Genevive were the winners in the 90cm class at Bold Heath. Evie was bred by Rosie’s parents and was originally competed by Rosie before she was sold. The last time Rosie competed Evie was in 2011 – an event they won.
Rosie told Eventing Worldwide: “We sold her to Jackie Priestner around six years ago for her daughter to compete. Her daughter has since gone to university so Jackie asked me if I would do a little with Evie again. She hasn’t been to a show in over two years but she was mega – you would not have known she wasn’t out last week. She’s 17 but looks and feels fantastic and she definitely isn’t ready to retire so we thought the arena eventing would be a really nice class for her. We will keep her going over the winter ready for the final in February. It was so lovely to ride her again in competition, it was like putting on an old pair of gloves.”
Eighteen-year-old Jodie Simmonds and Sannanvalley Bounce were victorious in the 100cm class. With 16-year-old Bounce, Jodie mainly competes at working hunter classes, with success at Hickstead and Horse of the Year Show where they came fourth and ninth respectively.
Jodie told Eventing Worldwide: “Arena eventing is something we do throughout the winter along with low level show jumping to keep him ticking over. Arena eventing is a great way to get out and jump a decent track without having to break his natural rhythm. I was very shocked to win because there were so many lovely horses and with Bounce only standing at 151cm I didn’t think we would be close to the optimum time. After our win at Bold Heath I have decided to take part in the JAS series this winter too.”
The 80cm class was won by Lucy Bednall and Aughamore Flagmount Lady.
Open to both BE members and non-members competitors first complete a round of show jumps immediately followed by a cross country course, finishing over a joker fence set at 10cms higher than the rest of the course. Along with the top 10% in each qualifier, the top three from the BE90 and BE100 JAS Championship will be invited to take part in the Arena Eventing Championships at Aston-Le-Walls at the end of February. The next qualifiers will take place at Mendip Plains (November 25) and Dallas Burston Polo Grounds (November 26).