‘Careful as a cat with the heart of a lion’: golden Gina secures Scottish hat-trick at Aintree *H&H Plus*

  • Emma Crawford and Gina Gold secure a hat-trick for Scotland — and a hat-trick for mares — on the opening day of the British Showjumping Indoor Championships at Aintree. Find out more about why the jump-off course was so influential and the planning and preparation that gave Emma and “Gina” the edge in their winning round...

    Scotland ended the first day of the British Showjumping Indoor Championships on a full house of titles, with Fife-based Emma Crawford completing the nation’s hat-trick with a win in the Speedi-Beet Grade C finals.

    Emma and the nine-year-old Gina Gold, owned by Louise and Graham Davies, were the penultimate combination to go in the 14-strong jump-off.

    Mark McGowan’s course proved challenging, with just two double clears ahead of Emma and “Gina” — fast rounds from Mark Edwards and Ede Peasy, lying provisional second, and Richard Howley with Matrone VD Donkhoeve, who were holding the lead.

    Emma also already had a round under her belt, acting as trailblazer on her own horse Dukes Of Hazzard.

    “When you’re first to go, what else can you do? You kind of have to go for it, because if you go clear, you are then putting the pressure on everyone,” she said.

    “Duke had one down and I was a little bit gutted, but he jumped a good round so I was pleased. I watched a others few go and knew there weren’t many of clears, but I knew Richard was one of those — I almost didn’t consider trying to catch him as he is a speed merchant!”

    After jumping fences one and two, combinations were asked to turn the opposite direction to the first round course, looping back on themselves over the water tray before jumping two further fences on a circle in a roundabout-style question.

    “My round is a bit of a blur as as soon as I’d landed from one fence, I was thinking about the next, but she was perfect,” said Emma, 20, who took on the ride a year ago.

    “After you’d jumped fence two, the horse almost wanted to turn right as we had done that in the first round and it is a natural instinct to want to turn right when they see a wall on their left-hand side. That meant you had to jump the first fence in consideration about the second. My mare makes up a lot of room, so I jumped the right-hand side of both the fences to give myself more room and distance so she could set herself up nicely.

    “That is the best round she has ever done with me. She’s a very hot horse, definitely a girl’s ride, very responsive — and sharp, yes — but safe to ride.

    “She’s as careful as a cat and has the heart of a lion.”

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    Emma stopped the clock in a time of 34.29 seconds, pushing her ahead of Richard who finished second on 35.02 seconds, with Mark close behind on 35.10.

    Emma added while lockdown has “not been easy”, having the extra time has paid dividends with bringing on younger horses and developing her partnership with Gina, with the mare progressing from jumping 1.10m courses to becoming more established at 1.30m level.

    In preparation for Aintree, she took both horses to a friend’s new indoor arena last weekend to give them as close a preparation for the real thing as possible.

    “I thought that would be the perfect place — they’d never been there, it’s a brand new indoor, we put up a 1.30m course and they both jumped brilliantly, so i haven’t jumped them since to keep them fresh, explained Emma, who also won the Aintree/Samshield style award for her winning round with Gina.

    The win not only marked a hat-trick for Scottish riders, but also for mares, with Innishannon Red Squirrel (Charley Hamilton) and Hanleen O Tess (Alister White) taking the respective NAF Five Star summer bronze league and Equissage Pulse senior British novice championship.

    “The show has been brilliant — the stables are amazing, as are the warm-ups, and the people doing the jumps couldn’t be more helpful. It’s one of the best organised shows I’ve been to,” said Emma, who also holds tickets for the talent seeker final and foxhunter championships on Friday and Saturday with the mare.

    “The feel of it is very much like Horse of the Year Show [HOYS] — the arena very much so in size and you have to ride it the same. Also with Mark’s course building, he has built it exactly the way it would be at HOYS and that’s what was expected of [us riders].”

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