Teacher tops Bramham BE80 championships on horse ‘on a calorie-controlled diet’ whose sire dances to Michael Jackson

  • Primary school teacher Philippa Skelton topped the NAF Five Star BE80 National Championships results when the class concluded Bramham Horse Trials today (9 June).

    The 48-year-old piloted the 15-year-old 14.3hh chestnut Brian Boru III to third place after dressage on 29.8 and moved up to top spot when she stayed on her dressage score.

    “I’ve really stopped eventing – I totally lost confidence after having kids – but Bo belongs to my friend Julie Glynn, who just hacks around the woods, and every couple of months, she says, ‘Shall we take him to a party?’,” explained Philippa.

    “I literally sit on him very occasionally, but he’s the most incredible little horse. His sire, Trevarth Black Lad, is a stunt horse and does a little dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. So Bo is very clever. The only reason he does well is he’s on a calorie-controlled diet and he knows if he does well, he gets carrots and polos.”

    Philippa knew coming into the event that she had a chance of being well-placed after dressage, but the pair had been eliminated at the ditch at the riding club championships a few years ago.

    “So when I walked the course and saw that trakehner [the Joules Leap of Faith at fence 9ab], that was terrifying. I lay in the lorry last night and thought, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do it’ but he didn’t even look at it.”

    Fence nine did cause the most problems in the class, with eight pairs faulting here on Ian Stark’s BE80 cross-country course, although an alternative consisting of a double of narrower fences – with no ditch or drop – was available to help people get round. Overall the final BE80 National Championships results showed that 75.5% of starters completed the cross-country without jumping penalties.

    Local teenager Emily Gaskell, 17, who is from Harrogate, claimed second, just 0.2 of a penalty behind, on Mandy Whone’s 11-year-old Callowfeenish Cailin.

    “I started riding him in early winter last year and we’ve found a partnership with each other and get on well,” said Emily, who is in her first year of A levels. “I’m actually meant to be at school, but they were fine with me coming.

    “I felt the pressure of needing to ride more than I’ve ever ridden before, but I also thought, ‘I’m at Bramham, this is the best thing ever and I should just go and have fun and if it goes well, that’s even better’.”

    Emily will also ride her own pony in the Pony Club showjumping at Bramham on Saturday.

    Full-time small animal vet Nicky Tyrell, 50, took the third podium place with her daughter Maggie’s 13-year-old 15.1hh mare Petlin Jessica.

    “We were going to sell her and then we thought she was a bit too nice so we kept her and she’s got me back into eventing,” said Nicky. “Maggie continued to grow, so we leased a schoolmaster for her and he took her up to two-star last year. She’s now just starting medical school.”

    Petlin Jessica has come back from the best part of a year off due to severe gastric ulcers, plus lameness due to a pulled muscle in her shoulder earlier this year – luckily, Nicky’s husband is a horse vet.

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