This weeks “Prize Giving” goes to Julia Fairbank who won her first ever BE event with her superstar horse Sonny.

Enjoy their story below,

I am beyond thrilled with Sonny – Swalcliffe was his first ever BE event and he only went and won with a 22.5 dressage, a green one down and an awesome XC!

To start at the very beginning with my entry – I got drunk and tossed a coin! Swalcliffe is just down the road from me and Sonny had a great winter doing dressage and show jumping, but it comes very early in the season, and as he is only 5 and just did a couple of small events last year, I would have liked to have a couple of unaffiliated starts under his belt before stepping up to compete against the bigger boys. But Richard and Sarah and their team always put on such a fantastic event, with beautifully presented courses, so I thought why not, let’s see if he steps up.

When I saw the section lists my heart sank slightly-I have to do Opens because my phenomenal former horse took me to 3 star, but I am so much less experienced than the likes of Aoife Clark and Bruce Haskell that I thought with a green horse I’d be lucky to get in the top 10, even if all went to plan.

Sonny is a wonderful horse to ride on the flat-very naturally balanced and relaxed; it makes the dressage almost a pleasure-his test was everything you want from a young event horse, but you never expect to get a 22 (well I don’t, anyway!) – I’m attributing the rail down to my shock when the show jumping announcer mentioning the score!!! His show jumping was generally a little bit green, but it was lovely to feel him build in confidence as the round went on.

Then on the cross country he really exceeded expectations-he was very focused and professional in his approach to it; of course there were a couple of slightly dicey moments-I wouldn’t expect anything else this year, but he kept wanting to go forward and looking for the next fence. He finished absolutely full of running, a second under time through luck rather than judgement, as I circled him after he ballooned the wagon fence, to give him a better chance of understanding the angled horse that closely followed it. So the day ended rather like this story began, with some money and a bottle of “grape juice”, but this time of the bubbly variety!

It was a day of firsts as my new puppy, Puffin, also came along to her first ever event – they’re never too young to start “lorry dog” training…you also find you’re a lot more popular than usual when you have a four-legged ball of fluff in tow!

As Swalcliffe is such a well-run, welcoming event, it secures fabulous sponsors for the classes-I won a pair of Ariat boots, an Eventing Life video, a gorgeous Mark Todd rug and a cheque, all just for winning a 90!

It really is the archetype that I think every other grassroots event should follow-yes, as riders we’re beyond grateful that organisers put in the time, money and effort of organising an event, but we also pay huge entry fees, not to mention the running costs and time we all put into producing our horses-it just makes it that much more worthwhile when you’re competing for proper prizes rather than just a bag of horse treats, and it was disappointing not to see more riders appreciating this by attending the prize giving.

Julia and Sunny
photo 1
Genuine amazement at how good the prizes where!


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