Horses bred at the Billy Stud took the first two senior titles at the British Showjumping national championships at Stoneleigh (3-10 Aug).
After two days of pony classes, the senior schedule launched on Friday (6 Aug) with the national grade C championship, which was headed by Nicole Lockhead Anderson and Dean Vernon’s eight-year-old Billy Mexico daughter Billy Chill.
Billy Stud jockey Lucy Townley then booked a Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) ticket when she headed a classy Equitop GLME Foxhunter masters with the seven-year-old Billy Nikon.
“When I walked the first round I thought it looked quite tough, but from 36 they had 20 clears and all the horses jumped it really well — I said to the course builder that I didn’t think it could have been built much tougher, but he said that all these horses have jumped triple clears in Foxhunter regionals, so it didn’t surprise him,” said Lucy, who already had one HOYS ride, Billy Marionette, qualified for newcomers.
Of the combinations to make the jump off, a further eight jumped double clears. Lucy led from the front, producing a round from second draw that remained 1.26sec ahead of her closest challenger, Olli Fletcher and BP Pocahontas.
“I followed Adam Botham and Ebanking in and I thought ‘he’ll set the pace’,” Lucy said. “I also had in my mind that when Will [Funnell] rides a jump off, it’s not about speed as much as it’s about the rhythm and taking less strides between the jumps.
“She is a super scopey, super careful horse and knocking the jumps wasn’t going to be the issue, it was trusting myself to ride her forwards.”
Lucy added that a training tip from Swiss Tokyo Olympic rider Martin Fuchs had also helped hone her round.
“I saw a video recently of Martin training using two cavaletti with a gap between them, and practising taking a turn on six strides through them in a soft, balanced way. I’d been doing it at home last week, playing around, and at the end of the course there were two verticals side by side, just as I’d laid out the cavaletti. I thought ‘take six strides there, don’t swing out, land and stay level’ and it all came together,” she said.
Nikon, by Plot Blue, is a third generation mare whose damline traces back to Tatum, one of the Billy Stud’s foundation mares and her half-brother Billy Kodak (Billy Mexico) has also been competing this season with Pippa Funnell.
“Their mother was called Billy Snap and from there it’s gone into cameras!” Lucy said.
The 17hh mare is relatively low mileage, having jumped two Bolesworths and a Hickstead last year.
“She jumped well at the beginning of this year and then spent the last two weeks in the field, we bought her back in a week ago to go to the national champs and put some shoes back on her!” Lucy said. “You can do that when the basic work is there, it shows they don’t need drilling every week.”
In the national grade C championship, four of the five jump off contenders delivered double clears, with Nicole taking the lead 1.71sec clear of runner up Megan James, who was riding the seven-year-old Ustinov mare Jolita L.
Nicole, whose boss Holly Smith has been jumping at the Tokyo Olympics this week, has been riding the chestnut mare for the past three months, and they have already been picking up wins at 1.40m level.
“She’s so talented, I am very lucky to be riding her,” Nicole said. “She is so careful and she makes everything feel very easy.”
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