‘He is just mega’: Piggy March’s Halo gleams to win Blenheim’s young horse class

  • Piggy March led from start to finish to win the Blenheim Horse Trials CCI4*-S for young horses on Jayne McGivern’s bonny grey stallion Halo. They notched a record dressage mark for this class of 21.3 in the first phase, and after showjumping clear could afford their couple of time-faults across country. It’s early days but Piggy believes the “horse has the “movement, brain, gallop and scope” to move up to five-star.

    “He was just mega,” said Piggy, winning on the horse’s four-star debut. “I knew he could do it but it’s still a totally new ball game for us and our partnership. I felt a little bit of greenness, I had to hold his hand and give him time at the water pond [the influential Jockey Club Water Combination, fence 9abc]. We put a curve between the b and c parts, and wasted valuable seconds, but it felt like his eyes were everywhere. When he got to the fence he was totally honest.

    “It’s a learning curve for me having a stallion,” said Piggy, who added that no decision has yet been made on when Halo will be used for breeding. “I think it’s important that I keep making him think this is a very good idea we are doing this. And he’s had a great time. I had a great time!”

    Any greenness Piggy might have sensed didn’t show, the little grey galloping and jumping so easily to come home ears pricked, just seven seconds outside the time.

    That would have been her maximum margin had the two-phase runners-up, Hayden Hankey and Heads Up, finished clear inside the time on their dressage mark of 24.3. However, Hayden paid the price for his horsemanship in letting his eight-year-old settle into a rhythm. Although they did speed up towards the end, they still racked up 11.6 time-faults in a beautifully smooth clear round. This dropped them to 10th.

    “The time-faults are incredibly infuriating,” Hayden admitted. “The horse’s future and welfare are more important than today’s competition. It’s hard, but I don’t think I over-protected him – I didn’t feel under me that I could go much faster. He jumped everything really well though and he’ll still be a brilliant horse, 12 months down the line.”

    Blenheim Horse Trials results: three brilliant mares

    Hayden’s slide allowed Sarah Bullimore to move up the order on Evita AP. Fifth after dressage, third after showjumping, they took the runner-up spot with a clear bang on the optimum time of 6min 56sec.

    Evita AP, by Con Air 7, is also only eight, but Sarah describes her as “a woman with a fantastic brain who picks everything up quickly”.

    “She was great in the dressage, showjumped fantastically and was such fun to ride across country,” said Sarah, who had previously clocked a quick round for 1.6 time-faults on Irish Trump, eventual 12th. “I didn’t think she could be as quick up the hill as Irish Trump but she has a huge stride. She is a very exciting prospect for the future.”

    Just 0.6 of a penalty behind Sarah was Kiwi rider Caroline Powell with another mare, Greenacres Special Cavalier. This Irish-bred has plenty of experience at four-star as well as two trips to the young horse World Championships, but Caroline says she has given this huge mare time to fulfil her potential.

    “She isn’t built like a typical eventer, being so long, but what is a typical eventer? One that does the job!” said Caroline, finishing on her dressage of 28.8.

    Dani Evans made an impressive climb up the ranks on yet another mare Monbeg Just Blue to take fourth spot with the fastest time of the day. They were down in 19th after dressage.

    “I was actually over the moon with her dressage because she is usually too busy thinking about the jumping phases, but she kept her head,” said Dani, finishing on 30.8. “She’s never been a winner, but she’s so gutsy and works so hard for me, and I’ve always believed in her.

    “I’ve never really pushed her because she’s a feisty mare, quick across the fences, a very good jumper and she’s hot in the brain so I’ve kept her steady.”

    Exciting young horses confirm their potential

    Emily King was fifth on Minnie Kerr-Dineen’s Imposant, with a wonderfully smooth round for just two time-faults.

    “I’m so pleased with him wherever we have finished,” she said. “It’s his first four-star and I thought he might make mistakes in all three phases and yet I’d still be pleased with him, but he was brilliant. He’s such a horse for the future – not only was it the biggest ask for him dimensionally and technicality-wise but with the crowds too as he’s such a spooky horse. Hopefully this is the start of a really exciting pony!”

    Bill Levett was another to catch the eye with the white-faced Sligo Candy Cane, who moved up from 13th after dressage to finish seventh.

    “He was bought with Paris in mind,” said Bill, 59, who has ridden for Australia many times. “He’s a good enough jumper and flashy, the sort you want in a championships. So I hope I can get some good form over the next 18 months and give myself a chance of going to my first Olympics.”

    Ireland’s Sarah Ennis and Action Lady M finished sixth, making a monumental climb from 32nd after dressage with two super jumping rounds inside the time.

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