‘Oh my gosh, I’ve won!’ 13-year-old rider tops Badminton qualifier

  • A 13-year-old rider who will be competing at Badminton grassroots next spring says her incredible achievement has not yet quite sunk in.

    Tichy Sanders and Camilla Albery’s Sparhanger Velvet saw off 105 other combinations to top the three-day qualifier at Bicton Arena (18-22 October), securing their place at the 2024 Voltaire Design Grassroots Championships.

    The pair were fifth going into the showjumping on the final day but jumped clear to rise to the top of the podium, finishing on their dressage score of 30.8.

    “It’s quite surreal really!” Tichy told H&H. “If anyone had said I’d qualify for Badminton, I would definitely not have believed them.”

    Tichy, who turns 14 at the end of November, competed Camilla’s mare Jackets Veracity (Freya) last season, and was delighted when Camilla offered her the “amazing opportunity” to ride Velvet as well. Her 2023 season included competing at the BE80(T) championships at Bramham on Freya, finishing 15th, then taking both mares to Bicton.

    “Bramham was amazing, but I’ve always wanted to go to Badminton,” she said. “It’s always been the dream. On the way to Bicton, I was thinking ‘Anything could happen’. Showjumping always seems to let us down; we’ll be in the lead and have poles, so I just thought ‘It’ll be what it will be’.”

    Tichy was very pleased with Velvet’s dressage, despite some enthusiasm in the canter – “She was all ‘Cross-country now, cross-country now’!” – but was unsure what the mare would make of the roads and tracks and steeplechase, which she had not done before.

    “I thought I’d just give it my best shot, and she absolutely loved the steeplechase,” Tichy said. “I think she was a bit confused on the roads and tracks, to see people coming the other way, but she was awesome, and she flew round the cross-country.”

    Going into the showjumping, Tichy and Velvet were in fifth place.

    “I thought that was amazing, and just to go for it,” she said. “If I kept fifth, I knew I’d be going to Badminton, which would be incredible. She jumped clear and I was elated, because we were going.”

    Then other riders had faults, and Tichy and Velvet crept up the order.

    “When the last person went in, I knew I was second, which was incredible, then I thought ‘Oh my gosh. I’ve won,” Tichy said. “I didn’t really believe it. Mum and Camilla, who are so supportive, were very happy too, to say the least!”

    Velvet, who Tichy said is a mare who likes to spook out hacking, and always wants to be in the spotlight, has one more schools arena eventing competition, then will have a winter holiday. And next year, preparation will start for Badminton.

    “It’s surreal,” Tichy said. “I think when we’re driving up the road to Badminton, it will hit me. A huge thank you to everyone; Mum, Dad, Camilla – this wouldn’t be possible without them.”

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