Wednesday 18 November saw the debut of the 2015/16 Durham University equestrian team (DUET) with two of our teams competing at what seemed like opposite ends of the country!

The seasoned A team of Jade Watt, Sophie Hall, Rollo Uloth (and trainer-for-the-day Rosalie Speeckaert) were joined by new addition Isabelle O’Bryen. We trekked nearly 100 miles to reach the York University stables near Scarborough.

The C team [Maddie Rushforth, Millie Seger-Bernard, Laura Korthauer and Hana Prosser with Team Manager Alex Wood] on the other hand headed to nearby Newcastle for their very first competition.

This is probably a good opportunity to briefly outline the scoring system.

The dressage tests are marked as a normal dressage test is. The showjumping is marked by each fence holding a potential 10 marks plus a set a collective marks at the end. There is a reduction of five penalty points for each knocked down fence and minus 10 penalty points for each refusal. Now comes the slightly confusing part. As a rider you want to finish on a score of zero. This is decided by who received the best mark and then the difference in marks between that top rider and the riders behind them is the penalty point that you end up on.

I.e If one rider finished on a score of 130 and the second placed rider finishes on a score of 127 then the second placed rider’s score is three. Still with me?!


DUET C’s begin their BUCS adventure

Despite their local destination the C team’s day started sat in Newcastle traffic while on the way to the most urban yard any of the team have ever seen!

Maddie and Hana were extremely excited by the fact they were at the actual filming site of “The Stables” from their favourite childhood television show, Stepney Bank Stables and it did not disappoint.

Millie and Hana opened the dressage with superb tests but Laura and Maddie were slightly less well suited to their mounts (which are drawn at random out of a hat).

The 5’3″ Maddie could not have found herself worse matched with the largest horse there. Whereas Laura had a slightly better result from the draw, she required all her dressage talents to ensure her spritely pony preformed an accurate test — minus one circle.

Despite these hurdles Durham emerged from the dressage on top (but only just with half a point separating them from second placed Newcastle).

After the draw for the showjumping Millie once again found herself riding first. The diversity of horses for the jumping was impressive, with an ex-racehorse, a 16hh+ cob, a 14.2hh cob and a cheeky but very fun mare.

Events took a darker turn during the early warm ups however when a Newcastle competitor was eliminated due to jumping more than the allowed four fences in the warm-up.

When Millie entered the arena to begin her own round an enquiry was suddenly launched as to whether she had also jumped too many fences in her warm-up and therefore also faced elimination; a false accusation the Durham team did not take lightly.

Luckily, team manager Alex had brought her fiercest Pony Club mum attitude with her and defended the team’s corner fantastically. The judge had the final decision on the matter and agreed that Millie was in the clear and could proceed.

The B team l-r: Millie Seger-Benard, Hana Prosser, Maddie Rushforth, Laura Korthauer

The B team l-r: Millie Seger-Benard, Hana Prosser, Maddie Rushforth, Laura Korthauer

Another twist in the tale

The drama didn’t stop there however as upon her approach to fence five, Millie panicked and had to circle to regain some control of her ex-racehorse. Maddie then followed suit in her round, also circling, thus both taking 10 penalties and being warned by Alex not to make a habit of it!

Hana’s round was fantastic and she rode a superb clear however Laura’s pony had decided it’d done enough jumping for one day.

Laura’s warm-up lead to further accusations of rule breaching (this time regarding tack) but Maddie was on hand with the rule book on her phone and the judge confirmed all was well. Laura rode valiantly but was sadly eliminated after three refusals. However all was not lost as all four teams had an eliminated member by the end of the round!

The scores at the end of the day revealed that the Durham C team had finished second to Newcastle, with individual success for Hana coming in fourth and Millie seventh. Considering it was everyone’s first ever British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) competition we could not have hoped for a better result and it certainly provided a steep learning curve for all (Maddie is going to print a copy of the rule book for future competitions!).

What about further south?

Down in Yorkshire, the A team had a slightly less dramatic day, although not completely without its own incidents.

After emerging from our wonderful B&B, stocked up after a full breakfast (we’d decided the three hour journey was better tackled the night before), Sophie began the day in intermittent rain showers. She expertly showed off her 22-year-old gelding to get the team off to a great start.

Contrastingly, new girl Isabelle found herself third to ride her tiring cob. Despite this she rode a superb test which, combined with strong efforts from Jade and myself, took Durham into a commanding lead going into the showjumping.

In the jumping we once again found ourselves with a widely diverse selection of horses from a riding school cob (this time ridden by Sophie) to fabulous but rather strong working hunter whose speed round the course never dropped below 45 mph (ridden by me).

The theatrics soon began as one pony threw its first rider off and after a few laps of the arena and a discarded saddle, made it very clear to everyone watching that it wasn’t keen on being ridden by anyone else. This resulted in the whole phase being restarted.

As if this were not enough Jade’s adorable Arab cross was suddenly withdrawn lame just before the end of the day. After long consultation with the judge and team captains Jade was finally allowed to finish the round on an alternative pony and thus transpired an uncomfortably long and tense wait while the results were totalled up.

Luckily for the team the odds fell in our favour and not only did we bring home a red rosette each as a team with an incredible 65 point lead over nearest rivals York, but we also peppered the placings coming individually fourth (Sophie), third (me) and second (Jade) with both Jade and myself ultimately finishing on a flawless 0 total penalties.

Thank you very much to both Stepney Bank and Snainton Riding Centres who alongside, Northumbria and Teesside Universities, ran two wonderful competitions.

A special mention must go to both Rosalie Speeckaert and Alex Wood who despite not competing drove both teams to their competitions and stood in as incredible team trainers to warm everyone up and support them throughout the day. Also, a special well done is thoroughly deserved for Isabelle who stood in as reserve for the As at the last moment and helped the team to victory — we couldn’t have done it without her!

First competitions down, we have noted our rivals for the rest of the year: York and Newcastle.

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Read Rollo’s introduction to his team