Deen City Farm was awash with gold medals, taking both team and individual titles at the second annual Team London Riding School Championship held at Dressage at Hickstead on 11th July 2012.
Learning from the inaugural event, aimed at giving riding school riders an opportunity to compete, the format of the competition was altered such that two members from each team rode Preliminary Test 15, while two rode Novice Test 22.
Marks were awarded by the judge at C, Kirsty Mepham, and the judge at H, Margaret Drewe, with the collective marks reflecting the rider’s position and ability to handle the horse.
The highest scoring rider from each team was then able to represent their team in the individual championship, performing their test once more.
Supported by Hoof, an equestrian legacy project of the British Equestrian Federation, fabulous prizes were in the offing with Toggi offering Forde jackets to gold medalists, Legacy rugby shirts to silver medalists, baseball caps to bronze medalists and socks as special prizes.
In addition the riders to secure gold would win a year’s subscription to Local Rider magazine for their riding school, while individual section winners can subscribe for themselves.
The Emile Faurie Foundation also offered a pair of tickets to each of the three highest scoring junior riders, enabling them to visit Emile Faurie’s yard. And all competitors received a £5.00 voucher to spend at online retailer Cavaletti Clothing, and a commemorative rosette from Hoof.
Dressage at Hickstead’s Dane Rawlins, Irish reserve for London 2012 devised the competition in conjunction with Dulwich Riding School, in Peckham, where he learnt to ride. Dane said, “I can’t thank our supporters enough. This competition really does inspire riders from inner city riding schools and is something we, the team at Hickstead, really enjoy hosting. I look forward to it becoming bigger and better, and we’d like to welcome a second tier opening the competition to riding schools outside the capital, encouraging all riding schools to contact us.”
Clinching the Team Gold with a combined score of 307.49, Deen City Farm held off stiff opposition from Dulwich Riding School who finished a whisker behind with 307.11 – and a nose in front of Stag Lodge Stables, Team Bronze medalists with 305.96.
In securing Team Gold, Deen City Farm’s yard manager and team trainer, Jo Henbrey said, “I’m just so pleased”, adding, “We all had butterflies but competing last year really helped as, although this was only the second time my riders have competed outside of the farm gates, they knew what to expect.”
Kathryn Whybrow and Sarah Clifford, Team Bronze medalists last year were joined by newcomers, Miranda Hill and Rebecca Kew this year.
“It was nice not to have nerves for myself”, said Jo, who is a regular on the British Dressage circuit and aiming for regional finals with her five year-old mare, stabled at Deen City Farm.
Dulwich Riding School also benefitted from past experience and, to be rewarded with Team Silver, was perhaps a more fitting result for the Peckham riding school that helped devise and the competition, but was unfortunate to be bottom of the order last year.
“Linda Gray, proprietor of Dulwich Riding School, loves talking about how her father taught Dane (Rawlins) to ride and obviously we are all aware of Hickstead having seen the Hickstead Derby on the television and read about the Premier League Dressage Shows in magazines”, explained Alice McKain, Dulwich Riding School’s highest scoring rider, “But after last year we didn’t expect to be in the medals at all.”
New entrants this year, Stag Lodge Stables, took the bronze medal, with their six year-old cob x TB bay gelding, Apple, really catching the eye, as the competition continues to showcase the standard of riding school horses – as well as test their riders.
Jodie Maile, volunteer chair of the London Horse Network, a Hoof supported initiative to improve standards and participation, presented the teams with their medals, and said, “The competition has a unique atmosphere – you can feel the anticipation of the supporters and admiration for the horses.”
The highest scoring rider from each team competed in a ride-off with a tantalizingly close finish with just 1.33% separating the top four competitors.
Deen City Farm’s Kathryn Whybrow secured double gold for her riding school by taking the title aboard Tarron with 77.73%.
20 year-old Kathryn is now an apprentice at Deen City Farm having first learnt to ride and volunteered at the small stables in Merton.
This was her second trip to the Team London Championships and a big improvement on her individual 10th place last year but since then she’s had more exposure, winning Deen City Farm’s in-house ‘Eventer’s Challenge’.
With cross-country facilities made possible thanks to Hoof funding, Kathryn also featured riding Tarron over the fences for Horse & Country TV but Kathryn says, “I’m too embarrassed to even watch it though I’m told Tarron looks great!”
Individual Silver went to Alice McKain riding the eye-catching Tomas.
Another to have grown up at her local riding stables, Alice, 16, left school last summer and now works for Dulwich Riding School, breaking in and schooling.
Alice said, “It was lovely to ride Tomas. He’s such a good school horse that he’s used for beginner to senior lessons and I don’t get the chance very often.”
Sheneka Reid, 16, then clinched individual bronze, 0.2% ahead of 25 year-old mother of two, Melanie Gatt from Stag Lodge Stables.
Representing Ebony Horse Club, Sheneka said, “It was my first ever competition but I really want to do more dressage and at least Jollie behaved for me.”
Sheneka Reid’s twin sister, Shanice, had a rather eventful test, when the six year-old piebald Drumbee Buddy demonstrated a desire to stop work during a torrential downpour, depositing Shanice during her dressage test.
However this led to Shanice being awarded a special prize as ‘Best Sportsman’ as nominated by the stewards, while her team-mate, Chemilla Lambert, was awarded a ‘Most Determined’ prize from Dane Rawlins, impressed by her calmness with the ever-willful Buddy.
A further special prize, for Best Turned Out went to Sarah Clifford of Deen City Farm.
Thanks to the Emile Faurie Foundation that offers disadvantaged children the opportunity to ride, the three highest scoring under 18 year olds from the team competition will also have the chance to visit Emile Faurie’s Gloucestershire yard where the reining Team Gold medalist from the European Championship trains his horse including nominated reserve for London 2012, Elmegardens Marquis.
Ellie Gatt from Stag Lodge, Sheneka Reid from Ebony Horse Club and Alice McCain from Dulwich Riding School were the lucky three – many others wanting to alter their dates of birth!
While Kathryn Whybrow and Alice McCain’s and winning percentages in sections two and four were sufficient to gain them entry into the individual championship, this was not so for sections one and three despite their high scores.
Claire Tilroe, 14, claimed the first Preliminary 15 section for Stag Lodge Stables riding the 13.2hh Dougal, an Arab-cross gelding to 73.65%.
A weekly rider at the stables and veteran of two pony club championships, Claire said, “Dougal can be a bit spooky so I was really pleased with my test today.”
Dulwich’s Emma Zadravitz took Novice 22 section 3 for Dulwich Riding School, breaking the 80% barrier with Tomas.
Emma said, “I spent years hacking out in Richmond Park and picked up many bad habits but I’ve been training for this championships every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the past six months.”
Patron of Dressage at Hickstead, Phil Swallow, joined Jodie Maile in presenting individual prizes and said, “I’ve been really impressed by the standard today but also by the huge cross-section of backgrounds. Those that say equestrianism is only for the elite would eat their words – I’m not sure where else you’d find people competing, with borrowed to bought gear, on such a level playing field without anyone batting an eyelid.”
Dane Rawlins delighted the audience with a dressage demonstration aboard Lord and Lady Harris’ Sydney, the 17.2hh bay mare with whom he was nominated as Irish reserve for London 2012.
Dane took questions from the crowd and said, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do this if you want to. It’s amazing the amount of luck that comes your way if you work hard.”
JOIN THE RIDE
You can join your Regional Hoof Network by contacting your Regional Representative of the British Equestrian Federation via www.bef.co.uk. To join the London Horse Network contact Jodie Maile: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 07815670035. Or for more information on Team London Riding School Championships 2013, contact email@example.com
Photographs courtesy of Rui Pedro Godinho flickr.com/ruipedrogodinho