EVENT REPORTS – Rockingham International

Event reports sponsored by Elite Horse Owners


Lorna Collins reports…


“Welcome to Northamptonshire’s version of Glastonbury,” was a dry comment from a passerby in the stabling. As my rather dilapidated lorry was towed onto surely the muddiest field in England, and by far the wettest part of the great Rockingham Castle estate, I wondered what on I was letting myself into, here for the onslaught of 4 days of international horse trials.

Indeed. One lasting memory for the stable-cohort was that squelch we heard and felt when we pushed our welly onto the flush lever on the floor of the not-so-delightful pink loos in the stable park. Stuck in the mud in a portaloo. What a moment. Wading back to my jalopy, I looked ever-longingly at all those humungous fancy lorries, complete with pop out en suites, et al.

But torrents of rain every day never wavered the dazzling competition. There really was something for everyone at Rockingham: International horse trials, at 1* and 2*, a variety of classes at Novice, Pre-Novice and Intermediate, and then an onslaught of Pony Club, Riding Club and Young Event Horse classes. Horses and ponies were everywhere. Despite the complex system of signs, maps and officials with whistles, it was easy to get lost. Non-horsey other halves, along for the ride, could be found in the food corner, selecting from an interesting and eclectic selection of nosh; or wandering around the numerous tradestands.

Those who came for the atmosphere and buzz were not disappointed. The showjumping arena was surrounded by white tents selling goodies. Throngs of spectators swarmed around, gagging at the action. The showjumping courses were stiff. There were few clear rounds in all sections. Officials moved the fences as best they could, but the going was very sticky and lots of horses got stuck in the mud. On the final day, for Intermediate and Novice classes, they decided to move the showjumping to a different arena. This was a popular decision.

A popular winner of the CCI* was Andrew Nicholson, who sailed round on a horse called As Is. As is his current form of late, he won the class efficiently, stylishly, effortlessly. As Is, so aptly named, is owned by Mrs. Deborah Sellar, who also owns the horse of the moment, that’s Badminton hero Nereo. Nicholson/Sellar combination are proving unbeatable. Enough said.DSC_8646

The CIC2* was won from start to finish by Kitty King on her Vendredi Biats. Kitty was thrilled with her success, and enjoyed a fabulous Rockingham experience. She said to your reporter: 

“I think Rockingham is a lovely event to compete at and it is very educational for the horses with atmospheric arenas and good jumping tracks. I was thrilled with Vendredi Biats and the way he performed in all three phases. He made it all feel very easy and loved the mud. Two of his owners that could come and support him yesterday had a wonderful day and really enjoyed the event.”

The CIC2* and Intermediate cross country courses are built by Captain Mark Phillips, whilst the Novice and Pre-Novice courses are built by Philip Herbert. Competitors were full of praise: “It’s a big, bold, galloping track, which uses the terrain of the land so naturally. It’s rare, and quite refreshing: there are no skinnies or corners in the pre-novice.” said one rider, Lorna Triggs, about the Pre-Novice. Ibby Machpherson skipped around the Pre-Novice on Bountiful Bess, after a brilliant score of 16 in the dressage. Ibby is well-known for her skills on the flat, so this was no surprise, but still an excellent score, no less. Ex-racehorse Bountiful Bess is also gathering a prominent reputation for success, this being her second win in succession. She won last week at Aston le Walls.

Clare Chamberlayne was quick to compliment the Novice course: “It’s an old fashioned track, like galloping round a hunter trial. You just need to keep kicking on.” Ever the professional, but so modest, Clare won a Novice section on her father Mark’s Alvescot Magic Jewel. Her comment was that this victory “has taken us all by surprise, most of all me!” The name fits this horse, since he was bought cheaply from Alvescot Stud.  Problems and injuries have beset Jewel, but he has come out on top, just as Mark Chamberlayne always predicted when he first picked him out as a youngster. Clare said she is especially “Thrilled for my father who has loved and adored the horse.”

Fifteen-year-old Elicia Miller had a brilliant competition, taking first and second place in the Open Novice Under 18 section on Gentleman George and A Sunny Bay. Elicia is aiming for the U18 championships at Frickley Park this year, and hopes to do her first Intermediate at Catton Park. Rockingham is one of Elicia’s favourite competitions. She came with the intent to redeem a mistake made here last year, when, she said, “an unfortunate rider error cross country cost us the win which I was absolutely gutted about. I came back this year hoping to redeem myself, which I feel I have done.”

Piggy French again proved herself back with a bang after missing last season with her pregnancy. She held a score of exceptional results at Rockingham: second in both the CIC* (Big Berry) and also in CIC** (Jump Jet III), first in the Pre-Novice (Fernhill G) and second in Novice (Cooley Monsoon). 

The final day, Sunday, saw the big guns out in the Intermediate and Advanced Intermediate sections. By now the clouds had run out of raindrops, at last. The sun shone and the ground dried (a little), although the show-jumping remained sticky. 

The Advanced Intermediate was hotly contested, with a win for Tim Price on Cekatinka, a horse owned by Mrs Joanne Pullan, first ridden by Ros Canter. Tim won the section on a scorching score of 23.3, ahead of Pippa Funnel on Sandman 7, which was her ride for the Blair Europeans in 2015.

The Open Intermediate Under 21 Section was won by Greta Mason, riding Chillout Girl. This win was the horse’s second Intermediate. Greta said: “She’s a super jumper and quick across the ground, so with the ground conditions effecting people, I hoped she would put in a solid performance which would move us up the placings.” Job done. 

Indeed, by now the job was done. Three extra Novice sections were run, and won by William Fox-Pitt, Lauren Shannon and Lucy Bullas. Then it was time for the tractors to pull all the lorries out of the mud. The ground on the cross country course had held up very well, but the lorry parks were something else. Good luck to the maintenance team for putting the land back together after four days of mayhem. 

As it happened, your roving reporter (yours truly) did eventually make her way out of the stabling. Myself and my horse managed (just) an entirely unremarkable performance in the CIC*. Still, we did get round with a superb clear across country, if nothing else.

And so, Rockingham Castle International Horse Trials was, yet again, superb fun and a grueling contest for all competitors, despite the weather. Roll on next year’s event.


CIC*: AS IS, Andrew Nicholson.


CIC** C: ZAZU, James Avery (NZL).

BE100 Section D: ELECTRIC LUX, John-Paul Sheffield.

BE100 Section E: BOUNTIFUL BESS, Ibby Macpherson.

BE100 Section F: FERNHILL G, Piggy French.

BE100 Section G: SWIRLY TEMPTRESS, Giovanni Ugolotti (ITA).

BE100 Section H: THINK TANK THINK, Sophia Icke.

Novice Section I: EASTERN GOLD II, Angus Smales.

Novice Section J: ALVESCOT MAGIC JEWEL, Clare Chamberlayne.

Novice Section K: REDBRIDGE GLIDER, Izzy Taylor.

Novice U18 Section L: GENTLEMAN GEORGE, Elicia Miller. 

Intermediate Section M: FINDUSS PFB, Holly Woodhead.

Intermediate Section N: MONKEYING AROUND, Izzy Taylor.

Open Intermediate Section O: COLDPLAY III, Oliver Townend.

Open Intermediate U21 Section P: CHILLOUT GIRL, Greta Mason.

Advanced Intermediate Section Q: CEKATINKA, Tim Price (NZL)

Novice Section R: SHANNONDALE PERCY, William Fox-Pitt.

Novice Section S: RINNEEN SILVER ROCKET, Lauren Shannon.

Open Novice Section T: MASTER JACK III , Lucy Bullas.

BYEH 4 year old: JUST SODA NO ICE, Ginnie Turnbull

BYEH 5 year old: HORATIO DN, Jean-Paul Sheffield

Photographs courtesy of Hannah Cole

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