1. The challenges of cross-country course building
Course designer Mark Philips was at Maryland 5 Star to watch his daughter Zara Tindall and Class Affair compete – and to see what former eventer now fellow course designer Ian Stark achieved with his first five-star track. Mark said there were more hills than Burghley and even Bicton, and was impressed with Ian’s “clever” ideas. But he highlights the problem of designing with this much terrain at five-star, saying: “In good weather it’s fine, but it could be catastrophic on a wet day.” The time was also a contentious issue, and Ian added an extra loop when riders measured the course short. Who would be a course designer?
2. The blind cross-country rider inspiring others
At just 15, a registered blind rider who qualified for the National Hunter Trial Championships at her first cross-country competition is setting about showing what is possible for other visually impaired riders. Lucy Booker-Wilson was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a genetic disorder that causes progressive vision loss, about three years ago. In short, she cannot see a fence as she approaches it. Lucy’s mother Amanda explained: “During lockdown last year, she got really low. We were concerned about her; she hadn’t been able to have her lessons and hadn’t been making progress, so we looked into loaning a horse. She’s had Jessie just over a year now and she’s been a life-saver.” Lucy completely trusts that if she gets Jessie to the fence, the mare will jump it for her, adding that some people have raised concerns about safety in competition but she is keen to show what is possible.
3. The rider winning bitless on his 70th birthday
Former international event rider and prolific bitless team chaser Mark Smith celebrated his 70th birthday by winning the Ashey Scurry at the Isle of Wight Grand National meeting, bitless. A veteran bitless campaigner, Mark rode Fiona Dowding’s Buddy to victory dressed in his signature pink, raising hundreds of pounds for Breast Cancer Care, on 10 October. Mark is still hopeful that bitless competition will become more widely accepted, though in his usual deprecating style joked he might not be around to see it. Heading to the Isle of Wight also “got him out of a big party”. Congratulations on the milestone and win, Mark.
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