It may not have featured as one of the country’s horsiest counties, but Oxfordshire proved this weekend that it has some of the horsiest schools in the country with a clean sweep at the Alpine National Schools and Pony Club Jumping Championships at Hickstead.
More than 300 young riders and their horses and ponies gathered at the All England Jumping Course for the annual championships, which has found a new sponsor this year in Alpine Electronics.
There is no qualification system for entry into the championships, and teams initially jump off against each other in two outside rings, with the ten best teams in each class going forward to the final in the international arena. The competition thereafter is Nation’s Cup format, with all of the team members jumping twice.
The Oxfordshire clean sweep in the Junior School Championship was spearheaded by St Hugh’s Faringdon, whose two teams took first and second place, with Bloxham School close behind in third. Pupils from St Hugh’s Faringdon were also entirely responsible for walking off with the individual titles. Alice Main (Fiddler on the Roof) beat schoolmates Olivia Vaughan-Fowler (Muckross Abbey) and Tabitha Woodd (Ri Niece) into first place by a narrow margin.
It comes as little surprise that Stonar School (Wiltshire), which has an equestrian centre of “international repute”, dominated the senior championship. Its two teams were forced into a thrilling three-team jump off after they were tied on 16 faults each, along with Ireland’s Loreto College.
Georgie Spence, with Darracks Tonto, representing Stonar’s second team, were the last to go in the final round. The other two teams had once again tied on eight faults, but with breathtaking determination Georgie rocketed around, finishing with just four faults, winning the top spot for teammates Charlie Spence (Nikita) and Grace Horsley (Highfield Sir Hugo).
The Pony Club Championship was won by defending champions, Ireland’s Iveagh team, while Iveagh’s Claire Percy (Jim’s Choice) also took the individual title. But the Gaelic invasion was brought to a halt this year by the Atherstone Hunt team, and Tivyside and the Avon Vale finishing in equal third.