In the run up to the Mitsubishi Motors Cup next week, Eventing Worldwide has been discovering the stories behind the competitors taking part. In this article, Joanne Watts tells us about the three horses she has qualified for the championship.
Having last competed at the grassroots championships five years ago, this year Joanne Watts has qualified three horses for the Mitsubishi Motors Cup BE90 final. That’s quite an achievement for the Norfolk based rider, who hoped to qualify one horse let alone all of them. And if the Regional Finals weren’t enough to keep Joanne busy last summer, she also married her husband Rob in July.
The horses Joanne will be riding are a mixture of experience and youth. Joanne says: “I am taking Darc Legend, AKA Lewis – my eight year old homebred horse, 14 year old Churchside Marble and 12 year old Chilham Temple Bar, both of whom are owned by Deirdre Hunt and are known as Marble and Liffy. Deirdre also has another horse, Churchside Reflection and who is out of Churchside Marble competing in the 90 final. I last competed at Badminton in the Grassroots Champs in 2011. Galloping round Badminton estate inside the ropes lined with spectators was a wonderful feeling and I am very lucky to be able to look forward to doing it again and I’m grateful to Mitsubishi Motors and Badminton Horse Trials for giving us amateurs the opportunity.”
Each of the horses Joanne rides only had one Regional Final qualification for this year’s championships. Both Churchside Marble and Churchside Temple Bar qualified at Prestwold Hall, coming second and third, whilst Darc Legend won his Regional Final at Little Downham.
Joanne says: “I would have been delighted with just one of them getting there. So to have three of them qualifying was unbelievable. Marble and Liffy are accomplished at their level, but last year was Darc Legend’s first year eventing – this time last year we had completed just one BE80.”
In her preparation for the championships, Joanne has competed at several British Eventing fixtures, placing in the top ten on each occasion; Churchside Marble was fourth at Isleham, fifth at Poplar Park and fifth Great Witchingham; Churchside Temple Bar won at Isleham, was eighth at Poplar Park and second at Great Witchingham whilst Darc Legend was second at Poplar Park.
Like many people competing at the Mitsubishi Motors Cup, Joanne works full time, as an Income Officer for Broadland Housing Association, and fits in riding around her job and has been lucky the weather hasn’t affected her preparation.
She continues: “Marble and Liffy live with their owner and she keeps them going with lunging and hacking – it is difficult for me to get over to hers regularly as I live an hour and half away. Fortunately in East Anglia the weather hasn’t disrupted our preparations too much. Last weekend we did a Pony Club ODE at Poplar Park with the three of them. Lewis won his section and Liffy was fourth. Next week I hope to take Lewis cross country schooling again. The Mitsubishi Cup is going to be a big ask for him this year so the more questions he sees beforehand the better. Having seen the course plan I think I shall be taking a couple of alternatives, but I am looking forward to seeing the course all dressed and in real life. My absolute goal is to complete on all three of them and if I could sneak a top 20 placing I would be thrilled. There is a big field of entries and all are established and successful combinations.”
With three horses competing, Joanne will have a large support team with her. She says: “I am really looking forward to it and it is going to be an extremely busy two days for me as well as nerve wracking. I have plenty of support coming to the event. My mum and dad, husband, grandparents and in-laws as well as some friends. I am very grateful they are all making the long journey from Great Yarmouth, and especially grateful to mum and Deirdre Hunt as without them none of this would be possible.”