Laura Phipps reports…..
The eventing season is now in full throttle and the early bloomers have had the opportunity to gallop through the countryside for well over a month. This was, however, the first fixture of the season at the popular Solihull Riding Club sponsored this time by Blue Chip Feeds. The organisers were made to work hard after being faced with firm ground after an unseasonably dry Spring. Despite this, competitors unanimously praised how well the ground rode and the event was supported with a fabulous turnout.
Perhaps less reliable in an ordinary year, but equally fabulous this time, was the weather. A beautiful sunny day bestowed upon competitors over both days of competition. The day was made even more glorious on Saturday for Vicki Hancox as she enjoyed two wins in BE90 Sections B and E. Vicki, who is based in Worcestershire and runs a livery and competition/sales yard, cemented a new partnership in Section B; she was riding One More Encore, a rising 7yo, who was only bought three weeks previous and this was the horses BE debut. Vicki reflected on the win: “Mayo finds the dressage very hard due to inexperience so I was absolutely thrilled he got a mark of 25.8 and went on to produce a foot perfect double clear. I couldn’t have been more happy with his behaviour and performance.” Mrs Joyce Brown’s Endeavour, a rising 5yo, clearly assumed the mantra ‘anything you can do I can do too’ and was not to be outdone by his “buddy” as the pair mirrored a leading dressage score and added nothing more to take the win in Section E on a score of 30.0. Vicki told Eventing Worldwide of the pair “Both horses are very exciting young horses which i’m lucky to have the rides on. Mayo will be aimed at a 1* towards the end of the season. Baby Brown (Endeavour) will be aimed at 5yo championships. However, neither will be pushed and what will be will be.” Vicki topped a successful weekend by returning on the Sunday to come 5th in BE100 Section L, producing another double clear on board Code Red.
Becky Little’s patience with Highlea Cruise after an inauspicious start to the season was rewarded with their first win together in BE90 Section A. Cruise has also assumed another role in Becky’s life as her “total rock through hard times” after Becky sadly lost her mum and her previous horse in 2016. These sad circumstances led to the purchase of Cruise. Becky commented “a huge thank you goes to Laurence Hunt who found Cruise for me and trains us both.” Laurence perhaps did not envisage being able to add ‘will chase you and/or horse after a tumble’ to his CV as Becky explains “Cruise is a very green 8yo by Bahrain Cruise and when we last came here at the end of last year I fell off and and Laurence chased me round.” Laurence’s efforts were not lost as Becky continues “this was however a turning point for both me and Cruise and we managed to finish last year on a BE100 which he flew. This year he’s come out very green and been a bit tricky to get clears but it seems Solihull has again been a turning point. To win was amazing. Double clear and a win is a dream come true.” The pairs aim for the year is to cruise on to a spot in the final for the Badminton Grassroots Championships and looking further ahead Becky exclaims she would “love to do a 1* in a couple of years but we will just take it as it comes.” Becky praised this event by stating “the dressage judge was so encouraging and even had a chat with us at the end of our test. Everyone has been so helpful and its just been a great event.” Becky completed on a score of 28.6 ahead of in 2nd place, Lauren Painter and Barrister on 30.8.
Sophie Croxton’s decision to join BE in 2016 has been thoroughly vindicated, as riding her own Mr Mcgowan, their form figures in their last 6 outings read 121351 and they produced a double clear to complete on their superb dressage score of 19.0 to add another win to their impressive tally in BE90 Open Section G. Sophie has owned ‘Split’, who is now 13 since he was a 4 year old and bought him on herself with the help of her instructor Louise Gilbert. Together they have competed at both the Pony Club and Riding Club Championships in dressage, showjumping and eventing. Their record is even more meritorious considering Sophie only has the opportunity to see Split on the weekends as she explains to Eventing Worldwide: “I have been based in Hertfordshire for work for the past year, I have to rely on the help of my mum, sister and instructor to look after and exercise Split from Monday-Thursday.” Sophie advises of her plans for the rest of the year “We’ve been fortunate enough to qualify for regional finals so our main aim this year is to hopefully qualify for Badminton Grassroots 2018, fingers crossed!” Also remaining on their dressage mark was second placed Samantha Brown riding Get Set Autumn Star completing on 21.8. Samantha also finished in 5th place in this section riding Ciggi.
The Sunday of competition saw another rider walk away with a brace of wins in the shape of Alice Pearson. Alice won BE100 Section M aboard Calcourt Quantum, her “huge” 17.3hh 7yo gelding whom Alice glowingly described as a “gentle giant who is honest, kind and with a huge jump.” Micky’s huge frame has made ‘giant’ strides as he was only broken about 18 months ago. Howard Sainsbury, owner, did buy Micky with in mind an altogether different concept of traversing the countryside as Alice explains “Howard bought Micky to hunt but when I tried him I told him this horse is too good to be a hunter and I hope I’m right! He will step up to novice in the summer but we will take it steady, he’s such a big horse you cant rush him.” This win did nothing to disprove Alice’s judgement as the pair only added 1.2 XCT to a leading dressage mark of 25.8 to take the win.
Alice’s second win came courtesy off Ciaos, also a 7yo gelding homebred by Roger Leggett. Alice told Eventing Worldwide “This horse is a stunner, has all the ability, movement and gallop. We just need to get him to believe in himself across the country. We did some speedy team chasing to get him to enjoy the job and hopefully its doing the trick.” On this evidence, it would certainly appear so, as they topped the dressage by over 4 marks on a score of 23.5 which Alice commented she was ‘really chuffed’ with and added only 2.0 XCT to complete on 25.5. Alice reflects “I’ve never won two sections in one day. This hopefully proves that the patience and work of myself and the owners is paying off.”
Alex Postolowsky decided he would join in on the double act by winning both BE100 Section L and Novice Section R. Alex partnered Freddie in the BE100 to complete on their dressage mark of 28.0 ahead of Lauren Allin and The Aviator on 31.3. Alex’s second winner of the day, Ashburton, preserved an unbeaten record at Solihull as they were also winners in a BE100 Section in 2015 on their only other visit. This 7yo Pacino mare added 6.4 XCT to complete on 40.2, marginally ahead of Sheenagh Bragg riding Star Of Freedom on 40.5.
It is not often sons of the great dressage horse Totilas grace BE events but their presence certainly adds extra colour. Aimee Stunt partnered Timolin, an active breeding stallion, to as dazzling a BE debut as Totilas extended trot. They topped BE80 Section J on their dressage mark of 26.5. Catherston Stud who own and stand the stallion commented on their Facebook page: “He proves he’s the real deal, our Timolin. We are so thrilled that he is enjoying every minute of it and able to incorporate it with the stud season, which is well underway.”
BE80 (T) sponsored by Airowear winners:
Section H – Leanne Bennett – Curra Pokey Joe
Section I – Lisa Lindsay – Hello Dolly
Section C – Amey Veal – Ranksboros Question Mark
Section D – Carolyn Chapman – Just William
Section F – Ian Roff – Granville
Section N – Sara Squires – Billy Jean D
Open Section O – Victoria Mitchell – Coolgrange Pixie
Section P – Jason Hobbs – Rusticoats
Section Q – Tom Rowland – Freshmans Minstrel
Open Novice Section S – Flora Harris – Moylaw Badger
Photographs courtesy of Hannah Cole Photography