Great Britain Student Riders – AIEC-SRNC World Finals Poland 2017

On the 28th December the British team travelled to Poland for the Student Rider World Championships 2017. The team was made up of myself Sophie Hall (Chef d’equipe), India Wishart and Rupert Batting and we were joined by a brilliant group of 6 squad supporters: Lauren Innes (non-riding Chef d’equipe), Sophie Wragg (reserve rider), Laura Simpson, Laura Birley, Harriet Deeming and Marina Lawson-Smith! 

We were all catching slightly different flights but Sophie Wragg and I met with Rupert and one of the Dutch Riders Alex at Luton airport on Thursday to fly together – this is when the excitement really kicked in! When we reached the other side our international friends were all there to greet us, a lot of screaming, a lot of hugs and the World Finals was officially beginning!

Friday 29th January was Dressage Day. As usual the first round begins riding a synchronised team test on unknown horses against two other teams. I had spoken to India and Rupert about our competition and explained that if we were to draw against Germany or Ireland we would face very tough competition. Of course we drew against Germany and Austria! We were on last of the three teams and saw the first two tests were very accurately ridden. The pressure was on but we all went into our zones, finding out as much as we could about our horses in the 5 minute warm up before show time! We were chuffed with our performance, the team test went well and we felt we had done our best. 

I was genuinely flabbergasted to find out that all 3 of us had got through to the semi-finals! This meant that we had knocked out the entire German team and were making up 3 of the best 6 dressage riders in the Finals!!! That afternoon we rode our semi-final tests which again all went really well. I unfortunately drew first to go on my horse against fellow teammate India and Ireland’s dressage champion himself Ian Cassells whilst Rupert was against Ireland’s Kelley Hutchinson and Dutch rider Annelous Groenwold. We had to wait until Saturday to hear if any of us would make it to the Final on Sunday!

That evening was our fancy dress party – comic-con! Being royally patriotic we all went as Harley Quinns, with Rupert (our taken male) as the Joker. With our outfits all in red, white and blue we really were representing GB 24/7! It was a lot of fun and every country got truly stuck into the theme with everything from Batman and Superman to the slightly more unusual Happy Feet and Pirates of the Caribbean. 

Saturday 30th January was Showjumping Day and once again I was praying not to draw against the big boys! Well… this time we drew against BOTH of them, Germany AND Ireland! It is fair to say we did not have luck on our side but we went in all guns blazing trying to embody our inner Whitakers. We could choose who rode which horse in the first round so I decided to put myself on the last horse, riding against the male German rider and Ian from Ireland. Knowing this was probably the toughest draw we hoped that it would give the other two Brits the best chance of qualifying and therefore the best chance for the team overall. This round was about 1m but we had only 2 minutes to warm up and 2 practice fences so it really is a challenge. I am chuffed to say we all rode really nice rounds. 

To my absolute amazement I won on my horse putting me through to the semi-finals again! India also went through on her horse which put our team in a great position – GB had 2 out of the 6 top Show jumpers! Rupert sadly had a pole in his first round putting him out of the competition but he wasn’t far behind! The semi-final SJ went up to 1.15m and I will be honest seeing some of the final fences in the course I was praying we got to ride talented horses!! (Luckily we did). I rode first and the horse was very fresh but it gave me a lovely clear round which is all I wanted. The later riders also went clear but rode a more collected canter so we knew that it was all going to be on the personal style preference of the judges. India sadly had 2 poles which meant she was out but she rode a lovely round to be proud of. 

That evening we all partied the night away, delighted we could all say we had tried hard. It was then that the announcements came for the top 2 riders to be in the Final for the Dressage and SJ. Sadly India and I just missed out, the scores for the dressage were within 1.5% so the competition really was hot! BUT Rupert absolutely smashed it and went through to the Dressage final against Ireland’s fabulous Ian!!

FINALS DAY 

Final’s day arrived and whilst everyone was getting slightly sad that it was all nearly over, we still had Rupert’s dressage final to go! In this round the two finalists had to ride a technical test and a freestyle test. I was really excited because I had recently put a new freestyle together and I couldn’t wait for it to be put into action!! When the horses were presented they were both in double bridles…………it was then that we realised Rupert had never ridden in a double bridle before?!! This meant a quick crash course in the warm up – not ideal but he got away with it. Considering, he did a great job and we finished all smiling.

Next on the New Years Eve agenda was prize giving and we are still trying to come to terms with the results. The team results set British history as we won Gold in the Dressage AND Gold in the Showjumping making us overall Gold winners and the World Champions 2017!!!!!! This has never happened for team GB before and I feel so so lucky to be a part of it. To top that overall India won Gold making her World Champion individually and I won Silver making me Reserve World Champion with Rupert close behind in 5th. In the dressage, Rupert won Silver, India Bronze and myself Sixth. In the Showjumping I placed 4th, India 6th and Rupert 11th – wow wow wow!!! 

Aside from the competition all 9 Brits got fully involved in the International AIEC spirit which made it all the more an event to remember. Our international friends were all on fantastic form and it could not have been more of a positive, fun atmosphere all weekend. We brought in the New Year with a beautiful gala in the estate mansion for our final evening together. There was lots of celebrating and some fabulous fireworks to top it off – what better way to start 2018?? 

An enormous thank you to Tatiana and the Polish OC for hosting such a phenomenal event. The venue was stunning, the organisation immaculate and the horses were fantastic, you should be really proud! We are all on Cloud 9 and I don’t expect we will be returning to normality for some time yet.

Sophie Hall 

GBSR Chairman and National Representative