For Geoff Luckett, a trip to ride RIHS working hunter champion Cruise Control means a 5min drive from his Warwickshire base. Like Louise Bell, the horse’s owner, he lives just outside Edge Hill. A regular on British teams and the Nations Cup circuit, Geoff was the leading British rider at HOYS this year.

The 10-year-old Cruise Control, aka Rusty, is by Irish show jumping sire Cruising and Louise has had him since buying him as a four-year-old in Ireland from Austen Quigley. He is also Louise’s hunter and regularly follows the Heythrop and the Warwickshire.

“He’s Mr Perfect,” says Louise. “I call him the ‘banker’, as he always comes home with the money. He isn’t bad at dressage either — he can do two time changes and half-pass.”

“Oh help,” responds Geoff, “he isn’t going to confuse me is he? I’m a show jumper and I only do walk and canter.”

Assured that the horse is “push button” Geoff confirms that, “the nearest I have come to showing is sitting in this kitchen”.

Rusty is tacked up and ready to go. Geoff stands back and takes a look. “Big, isn’t he?” he says to Louise. “16.2hh,” she replies, which elicits the response, “in your dreams”.

Geoff Luckett enjoys jumping Louise Bell's champion working hunter Cruise Control

Agreeing to differ, Geoff is given a leg up. (He has brought his own close-contact jumping saddle, as he refuses to be seen in a “girly” showing saddle.) He and Rusty get acquainted as they cross to the arena. To begin with, walk or canter are the preferred paces.

“As I said, I don’t really do trot but as I’m schooling him for you I’ll give it a go,” says Geoff graciously.

Once he has the gears sorted, he really opens the horse up round the edge of the arena and Rusty enters into the spirit of the occasion with a few squeals and a couple of little bucks for good measure.

“I really like him,” says Geoff as they settle down and jump a small fence. Rusty jumps it beautifully. So tidy is he in front that he is one of the few horses who genuinely needs a stud guard.

After the first couple of jumps Louise raises a couple of fences and builds Geoff a course.

“You could go straight out and win a decent class with this horse,” he concludes. “Can I have him for a show on Wednesday?” The request is refused.

“It is nice to see him jump with someone else, though,” she says, “Isn’t he fab?”

Geoff comes down to the large brush that takes pride of place in the middle of the arena.

“This is our most jumped fence,” says Louise. “We school all the hunters over it.” Rusty jumps it beautifully — so well, in fact, that next time around a rail is added to the back. Again, Rusty soars over it.

“If I’d come across him as a youngster, I would have bought him for his attitude and manners alone,” says Geoff. “The jump is a bonus and he’s so easy you would nearly jump him with no hands. You could definitely jump him while you were on the phone!”

Geoff finishes off with an extended trot round the arena.

“Are my hands in a showing position?” he asks Louise, tongue-in-cheek.

“Yes,” she says. “Do you know, I might even employ you!”

  • This feature was first published in Horse & Hound (21 December, ’06)