Taking the wrong horse — and 11 other unforgettable competition moments

  • There are some competition days that we will never forget — for all the right or wrong reasons. Emma Shadbolt asks top riders what their most memorable moments are, from turning up with the wrong lightweight cob to making their debut at advanced level

    Lynn Russell, showing

    Mine has to be six years ago at Surrey County Show. It’s always the worst week of the year for me as I do six days on the trot. That year I had two grey lightweight cobs and I ended up taking the wrong one. I didn’t realise until someone with a catalogue pointed it out with less than half an hour before the class! I rushed to the secretary who luckily was so helpful and managed to change the details so I could run the cob, now we always double check everything.

    Fiona Bigwood, dressage

    My greatest moment has to be winning the silver medal at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010 on Wie Atlantico. He was just amazing for me. We scored 70.12% in the grand prix for the British team but we also qualified to compete in the grand prix freestyle where we scored 73.4%. It is something I’ll never forget.

    Dan Delsart, showjumping

    The most amazing experience was June 2014 in the CSI4* Hickstead Speed Derby with my own produced mare Mayspring. I was fairly happy with the course, however I had not trained or expected the derby bank to be as deep as it was! I was drawn mid class, so had a chance to talk with my friend and mentor Philip Miller who advised me on the best way of tackling the bank. I jumped with a fast time with an unfortunate pole on the dry ditch. I headed to the last where I was overwhelmed and punched the air like my father did when he used to compete. It was a dream come true jumping the speed derby at the world famous Hickstead in front of around 13,000 people that day.

    Rachel Horton, showjumping

    Winning the B Tour grand prix at Hartpury Spectacular in December 2015 for the second year running was a big moment. A lot of the time after I do well in a good class I think I was lucky and it won’t happen again, it was just a fluke, so to win it two years running was really nice. I feel like I need to keep proving to myself that I can do well. I know my horses can and just hate letting them down — I am secretly very hard on myself, I just don’t let it show.

    Olivia Oakeley, dressage

    I can’t decide between two moments. The first has to be the young rider Europeans in 2014 where I came sixth. I’d had a very long struggle with Donna Summer and it was just so rewarding to achieve such results at an amazing event. The second is Horse of the Year Show 2015. I had never ridden at such a prestigious show before and I am just so grateful for the opportunity. Don Carissimo was incredible and I can’t describe how amazing the atmosphere is there — it’s electric and “Darcy” and I loved it.

    Daisy Coakley, dressage and eventing

    It was my first nationals riding Judy Firmston Williams’ five-year-old Cleopatra II (Daya) in 2012. We decided to take my lorry rather than Daya’s normal wheels as I was going to stay onsite overnight. The lorry was immaculately packed — everything was where it should be and I was feeling organised. Within seconds of loading, Daya decided the lorry was not to her liking, put both front hooves on the tack locker and made a huge hole in the roof — not an ideal start. When we eventually got to the show (a good hour behind schedule), I had 30 minutes to ride in the general working arena in the pouring rain. I ended up walking into my new accommodation (a rather nice hotel) stinking of horses and all my kit stuffed into various Sainsbury’s bags. Even though we had a hectic start we put it all behind us. Daya was brilliant the next day and we went on to win our first national title together.

    Kylie Roddy, eventing

    My most memorable moment is without doubt my first advanced on a horse called Kyrenejenallas Boy, at Hartpury round the young rider final trial. The dressage had gone as good as stressage did for me back then. Then we had one down showjumping (rider error) on the lovely flat rugby pitch, which was getting more bog-like as the day went on. Trina Lightwood then helped me into the start box on the uber-keen Kyrenejenallas Boy and as the starter counted him down he stood bolt upright and I lost both my stirrups. I jumped around the first four fences without any stirrups. I remember thinking I hope it doesn’t get any worse than this! Luckily for me it didn’t and we finished seventh. To say we partied that night was an understatement.

    Emma-Jo Slater, showjumping

    My greatest competition day was Horse of the Year Show 2014 when I won the grade C final on Kim Barzilay’s lovely mare Lizziemary. I was so nervous that day but once I was in the ring it was great and I loved every minute of it. I have two sayings that I believe sum up everything: “Winners never quit and quitters never win” and of course, “a calm sea never made a skilled sailor”.

    Becky Moody, dressage

    In 1995 I was selected to ride at the junior international at Hickstead on my sister Hannah’s 15hh Highland/thoroughbred Sir Fred. We were up against all these amazing horses from the UK as well as Holland and Germany — I remember there was lots of buzz because one of the German riders had a fancy new horse that had cost a bomb. They were all in their top hats and I still had my Pony Club crash hat on. Anyway Fred was an absolute legend and we won. It was so special because he was just an ordinary little horse that hadn’t cost much at all, but because he had such a huge heart and my sister had done such a good job training him, he came out on top.

    Laura Collett, eventing

    A day I will never forget is 8 July 2013. I was at Tweseldown in the intermediate when I had a rotational fall on the cross-country. It was a horrific fall and the horse landed on me. I was in a coma for six days, punctured a lung, lacerated my liver, broke a few ribs, fractured my shoulder, fractured vertebrae, fractured my cheek bone and lost the sight in my right eye. When I woke up from the coma I was blown away by the cards and messages of support I had received from people all over the world; it really showed how close the eventing community is. I actually have no recollection of that day at all — but I will never forget it!

    Continued below…

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    Jayne Ross, showing

    Sunday at the Royal International at Hickstead in 2015 stands out. I won the hunter championship with Time 2 Reflect, which put us through to what I felt was one of the best supremes ever. The ride-off allowed “Betty” and I not one but two opportunities to gallop the whole way around the fabulous international arena with a really appreciative crowd cheering on a perfect English summer’s day. Being called forward to receive the coveted Winston Churchill trophy was especially thrilling as it came shortly after being told by the British Horse Society (BHS) that I was being invited to join their select group of equestrians in the hall of fame, an honour of which I’m hugely proud and privileged to hold on behalf of the show world.

    Joe Clayton, showjumping

    I will never forget the day I jumped double clear in the five-star Gijon Nations Cup with Velini, in 2015. We had a very good team of horse and rider combinations; it was a tough course but Velini handled it well for a young horse who was relatively new to this level of competition. It was the best feeling jumping a double clear, representing Great Britain and contributing to the team’s second place. It was great to celebrate our achievement at the end of the day — although I had a bit of a sore head in the morning…

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