Horse makes comeback after major stifle operation to land two national titles

  • A horse returning from a major stifle operation has landed two championships at British Riding Clubs’ (BRC) first national virtual dressage championships (26 April to 2 May).

    The BRC SEIB Novice Winter Dressage Championships and the BRC HorseHage & Mollichaff Intermediate Winter Dressage Championships were staged online for qualified combinations for the 2020 and 2021 championships, after both were cancelled owing to pandemic restrictions.

    Kate Heap’s San Francisco PR had surgery on his stifle 18 months ago, but was back to his best to top the medium D25 and the overall individual mixed pick-a-test for 2021.

    “His recovery was very slow and then Covid struck, so we haven’t really had an opportunity to test how [he’d cope] until these championships,” said Kate, of Billericay & District RC.

    “I found the experience of taking part in an online test to be very different to the norm. ‘Cisco’ is a laid-back horse and I rely on the atmosphere and the other horses to give him that razzle-dazzle we all strive for in competition. But it was lovely to have the excuse to get him all dressed up and in show attire, it gave us real purpose and a boost to our daily training.”

    Davinia Kickham (Atherstone & District RC) headed the senior novice 2020 with a score of 75.25%, riding Divine San Siro. Davinia was able to benefit from previous virtual competition experience.

    “As I competed in the BRC Christmas Cracker event last year, my partner is now a seasoned professional at videoing,” she said. “Getting all dressed up and plaited, and even remembering the test, created the nerves.”

    Lilly Tailby was the overall winner of the junior novice 2020 championship, thanks to “two amazing tests from my lovely boy Humbug”. She won a Saddlers Company bridle as well as rosettes and sashes. This is Lilly’s first year as part of BRC and she has been delighted with the competition provision during lockdowns.

    “Thanks to BRC for all its hard work to enable us all to keep competing during the tough times,” she said. “I’m looking forward to many more BRC activities now that things are moving again.”

    Overall 2020 junior novice winner Lilly Tailby with her pony Humbug.

    Rother Valley RC junior monopolised the team competition, finishing first and third in the junior intermediate winter championships 2020. Team manager Caroline Morris was relieved that the “phenomenal work collating paperwork and YouTube links” paid off.

    “As lovely as it is to represent your club at a championships in any form, the virtual route takes away the team camaraderie, the excitement of a road trip and there were no chips, cake or gin for the team manager!” she said. “I consider myself incredibly lucky to work with a great bunch of supportive parents and hard-working and talented riders, and to have the backing of a great club and committee.”

    The newly formed Flitch Way RC won the 2021 junior novice winter title, at the club’s second championships since it was founded last year.

    “The team – Ruby Mae Morgan, Imogen Pohl, Poppy and Mia McDonald – all rode superb tests to produce brilliant scores,” said team manager Rosie Bates.

    In the seniors, a busy cohort from Saffron Walden & District (SWDRC) were victorious in the senior novice dressage 2021. The club had lost a few of its usual campaigners owing to lack of access to arenas during lockdown, meaning other members were filming three or four different tests for the two championship years.

    “I thought it was going to be an administrative nightmare,” said team manager Claire Engelmann, “but credit to all SWDRC team members, everything was submitted to me as requested, which meant I could send one cohesive document to BRC with all the links in one go.”

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    BRC believes this dual championships is one of the largest virtual equestrian competitions ever staged, with more than 14 hours of competition streamed on the BRC Facebook page.

    There were 1,250 entries, 29 judges, 58 arenas and 174 dressage tests from intro to advanced medium, in junior and senior teams and individual. The videos have been viewed more than 6,600 times.

    “This has been a huge undertaking and the whole team worked incredibly well to ensure a seamless production for our riding club members,” said BRC head Rachael Hollely-Thompson. “We are thrilled to have been able to run this competition for those riders who had already qualified and hope that everyone enjoyed taking part, we saw some fabulous arenas and backdrops which we would not normally get to see.”

    Full results can be found on the BRC website, and all top three arena videos can be viewed on the BRC YouTube channel.

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