The annual South African Junior Interprovincial Eventing Championships were recently held on South Africa’s Western Cape. Seventeen year old twins Beth and Amy Coxon-Gilliatt embarked on a twenty-hour journey to be there, with Beth’s ride Rieperbahn (stable name Rupert), and Amy’s ride Lionheart (stable name Lionel). “The trip itself stretched over two days, with a stop-over between, as we travelled over one thousand kilometers from one coastline to another,” explains Beth, who placed first, and is now South Africa’s Junior Open Champion.
Although Beth and Amy did not hold a home advantage, they did have one thing that worked in their favour! “The George Riding Club, which hosted the event, is flat. Our horses are used to the hilly geography of our home-province; our cross country tracks are built in valleys and on hillsides, so we knew that the going at the Championships would not tire them. Those horses are fit!” continues Beth.
The importance of flatwork
The twins firmly believe in the value of dressage, and never undermine its importance. “I can confidently say that flatwork is eighty percent of our preparation. In eventing, a good cross country or showjumping round will leave your score unchanged, whereas it is the dressage that determines what that score will be,” Beth adds. “Our goal, as anybody’s might
be, is to end on our dressage score. Yet for some horses, like my own, they are sometimes prone to have a pole down in the showjumping. A good enough dressage test is what can let you have those crucial four penalties in hand. However, at the Championships, after a cross country that completely altered the score board, there were less than three penalties between first and third place, and a pole was quite literally the difference between winning and losing,” Beth recalls.
Superb clear rounds from Beth and Amy led them to be the Junior Open Champion and the Junior Reserve Champion, respectively. “Twins, placing first and second, with eerily similar-looking horses. It was unintentional, but both our chestnuts have four white socks and a white blaze!” adds Beth.
The pair humbly put their success down to hard work, but it was made easier with their horses being ingeniously bitted. Thanks to their sponsor, Bombers Equestrian Equipment, Beth and Amy’s horses are always bitted with the ultimate in handmade, highly engineered bits – Bombers Bits.
“Rupert was previously naturally on the forehand, and very heavy in my hands. It made collecting him on the cross-country a far more difficult job than it needed to be. I did not put a stronger bit in his mouth however, just one designed to make him carry himself correctly. The right bit really helps with every phase of the competition, and as part of our management regime, Bombers Bits have really helped us to achieve our dream of doing so well at the national championships,” Beth concludes.
Victors with home produced horses
Reserve Champion Amy tells us that along with her sister, she has been riding and eventing since the age of five. “At the George Riding Club, we were competing for both the individual trophy, and also the team competition for our province,
KwaZulu-Natal,” Amy explains. “In a class of top bred warmbloods and experienced schoolmasters, my sister and I rode our ‘off the track Thoroughbreds’ that we schooled ourselves to this level. Our horses were fit and healthy, we had focused on our weaker areas as much as possible, and we are proud that all of our preparation had been done by ourselves,” she adds. “In everyday riding, we aren’t afraid to remind each other of our small bad habits, or to frankly tell each other if we have done something badly. Beth and I feel that this honesty is extremely helpful to our riding!” she explains.
“Jumping in reverse order of merit is always a tense experience, but we both went clear…”
Amy says the pair both felt they had done decent dressage tests after the first phase, with Beth and Rupert lying third after the dressage, and Amy and Lionel lying in fifth place. “The cross county track embodied what a championship class should be, with questions at full length and height, and technical lines,” Amy recalls. “After an elimination and a retirement in the class, I went out clear, and in the time. Beth still had time to go, as we went out according to the team draw. At jump 16, the jump judges stopped her for eight minutes, as three ambulances helped the horse and rider ahead of Beth, after a rotational fall. But after the stress of facing a tricky A, B, C line ‘cold’, Beth also came home clear. The placings switched, and now we were second and third place, with less than a pole between each of the top three riders. Jumping in reverse order of merit is always a tense experience, but we both went clear. We had not quite processed that as the leading rider took a pole in the showjumping, Beth would be the Junior Open Champion, and I would be the Reserve Champion of 2019. Now, as Rupert and Lionel have a well-deserved break, we are back at home and preparing our other two horses, also off the track TBs, for the next CNC 2-star,” Amy continues.
Amy also can’t praise Bombers Bits enough. “Lionel uses a Kimberley Dee Barrel 20 for his dressage, and a Bombers Happy Tongue Pelham in a 75” shank for jumping.He used to throw his head and could never keep a consistent contact, but he now has an incredibly still head, which means we can optimise the dressage marks. On the XC course, I hardly needing anything other than my seat to collect and set him up for a jump. Having the right equipment is key, and Bombers Bits simply help our lovely horses do their job comfortably,” Amy concludes.