Tales from Hickstead: Closed borders are no barrier for Royal International working hunter pony

  • LIVING on the Isle of Man proved challenging during covid when borders were closed and 13-year-old Lola Bass couldn’t get across to the UK to train or qualify her nine-year-old plaited working hunter pony Landslow Melody Maker for the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS).

    “When shows started back up in the UK, we were unable to travel over to the qualifiers, and we had to wait for permission to leave, which meant we only had one chance to qualify for the RIHS,” said Lola’s mother Catherine Garrett. “This was at the BSPS Working Sports Pony Show at Vale View where they jumped the only clear to win and then go champion – we were so lucky to get our ticket this year!”

    Despite their tribulations and lack of ring practice, Lola and Mel, as the pony is known at home, finished third in a very competitive open 14hh worker class at Hickstead.

    “Mel is in great form and we’re over the moon with them,” said Catherine. “Especially as Lola is only 13 – she is one of the youngest in the class.”

    The family have owned Mel since the 2019 season.

    “We had a plaited show pony and then Lola decided she wanted to jump so she went straight into 14hh open workers when she was just nine,” said Catherine. “She is tall for her age at 5ft9, so has to ride the bigger ponies.”

    During the season, Mel is stabled with producer Sarah Challinor in the UK from March to October and Lola and her mum travel over for training and to compete.

    “We usually head over quite frequently during the season, but during Covid, we couldn’t get over more than a few times,” said Catherine. “It takes 10 hours door to door to get Mel to Sarah’s and it’s not cheap either, but it’s worth the trip when they do so well.”

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