This year sees the introduction of a new championship class at The Festival of British Eventing, presented by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), at Gatcombe Park.
Leading equine nutrition company TopSpec will sponsor the new National Restricted Novice Championship, which will be known as The TopSpec Challenge for the Corinthian Cup.
Whilst the existing British Novice Championship runs at Intermediate level, the new Restricted Championship will be a true Novice test, with a brand new cross country course designed by Captain Mark Phillips and built by the Willis Brothers.
The new championship class was launched following feedback from British Eventing members about the lack of a Novice level championship. Now, alongside their professional counterparts, amateurs will have the opportunity to compete at the prestigious Championship venue.
In keeping with the amateur, grassroots nature of the Championship, riders must not have completed an Intermediate class in the current or preceding five years, and not completed an advanced class in the current or preceding 10 years.
The Corinthian Cup, in appreciation of Richard Meade OBE, who was Britain’s most successful equestrian Olympian, is kindly donated by Desi Dillingham MBE in memory of her aunt, Barbara Kemp. Barbara designed and built the 1976 Summer Olympic three-day-event cross country course in Bromont, Quebec – the first woman in the history of the Olympics to design a course for the Games.
One of the riders competing in The TopSpec Challenge for the Corinthian Cup will be 19 year old Melissa Joannides riding Brighton Rock II. Eventing Worldwide caught up with Melissa to find out her thoughts about riding in the new championship class.
Melissa is based at Hickstead, West Sussex, on a yard she and her mother rent from one of her owners Sue Bunn. It is from here she produces event horses and ponies.
After completing her A-levels last year, Melissa is concentrating on a full time career eventing. With a strong team of support behind her, including her sponsor Arka Equipe, she has every intention of fulfilling her goals of reaching the top. She already has an impressive equestrian CV and in the last two years she has qualified and ridden three different horses in the Badminton Grassroots Championships, finishing 8th on Cullintra Jane in 2014.
She says: “My mum was very horsey so I started riding from a young age, practically from when I could walk. My first event was at Eridge when I was six years old and I was hooked, especially on cross country. I rode for my first owner when I was 12 and that’s when I started British Eventing. I’m currently eventing three horses. Brighton Rock II – the horse I will ride at the championship – is owned by Sue Bunn. I have a six year old mare called Skip to the Beat, owned by Bridget Lyne, who I started riding this season. She is very exciting – I’m currently competing her at BE100 and she is very consistent with her double clears so she is one for the future. And I also ride Strike Up The Band, owned by Ellie Brown, a seven year old mare who I compete at BE100 and is in her first season of eventing.”
Melissa’s partnership with her Gatcombe ride started in September 2013. The 10 year old 17hh Bay gelding, known as Elvis at home, is by the renowned eventing stallion Rock King. He previously qualified for a Badminton Grassroots Regional Final, Aldon three day event and Blenheim’s Eventer’s Challenge. However a minor injury, when he pulled his pectoral muscles, at the end of last season prevented him from taking part. Melissa now believes it is now his time to shine having qualified for the Novice Restricted Championships with a 3rd place at South of England Horse Trials.
Melissa says: “I started riding Elvis about two years ago and we have come a long way together. We only started competing him at Novice this year so I am very pleased he managed to qualify for the championships in his first year of competing at this level. I said at the beginning of the season that my aim this year was to ride at Gatcombe, even if it was the International competition. I never thought I would be riding at The Festival of British Eventing, so it’s very exciting to be going to the championships.”
And what are Melissa’s thoughts and aims for the competition?
She says: “I think the Restricted Novice championship is a really good idea. At most Novice competitions there are lot of professionals are in the classes and they are in the top two or three placings. So to be able to qualify for the actual Novice championships is very difficult. And it’s run at a slightly higher level so if your horse isn’t ready for that it can be quite a big step up. I’m quite a competitive person and fingers crossed Elvis can show us what he can do, but I’d like to get round the cross country. But to go and just be at the championships will be really amazing because I never thought I would be there.”
Eventing Worldwide wishes Melissa and Elvis the best of luck at The Festival of British Eventing and will be keeping up to date with their progress throughout the competition.