Find out how Emma-Jo Slater claimed a convincing fifth national discovery championship title on a mare she wouldn’t consider the fastest...
Defending champion Emma-Jo Slater claimed her fifth Nupafeed Supplements senior discovery championship title with a deceptively fast round aboard the six-year-old Happy Feet III on day two of the British Showjumping Indoor Championship Finals (8 October).
Emma-Jo and Happy Feet, who were the last of 16 combinations to go in the jump-off, shaved a full two seconds off Millicent Cornock and Forsythe John VDL’s leading time of 38.27 seconds to win.
“We bought her last year — she can be a little bit unsure sometimes and she’s not the fastest and she never used to turn very well, but she turned really well today,” said Emma-Jo, who stopped the clock on a speedy 36.21 seconds.
“I didn’t think I could beat Millie — she asked me if I was going to and I said ‘ah no I won’t beat you on this one!’”
The bay mare, owned by Kim Barzilay, produced a smooth round, with a couple of lucky moments — rattling fence one and the first part of the double — but the poles stayed put. Her win also continued mares’ dominance at the championships at Aintree International Equestrian Centre, with all four championship titles awarded so far going to mares.
The course, built by Mark McGowan, featured many places where combinations could play it safe or go bold. These included two dog-leg lines, where strides could be taken out; a tight turn through a narrow gap between jump wings between the third and fourth fences, which a few brave combinations squeezed through; as well as a sharp roll-back after the double, testing combinations’ balance and steering to nip inside the flower arrangement and save valuable seconds.
“Kim said I took one less stride on the line between the first two fences — I did that in seven strides instead of eight,” said Emma-Jo.
“There was another little turn I didn’t do after the third fence, I decided to go round as I think it was better for her.”
She explained taking a pull to make that turn would have lost the mare’s momentum, which in turn would have slowed them down.
“We’ve done lots of practicing turning at home and it is just clicking in now. Some horses spin round your leg and she’s not quite like that, but she’s getting much better,” said Emma-Jo, adding Happy Feet is a character at home and a big fan of food.
“She’s improved so much in these last few months, and she is also a careful horse, so you can keep her running [forwards] and jumping.
“She really proved herself in that discovery final.”
This was the fifth national discovery title for Emma-Jo, who won last year aboard Kimba Castello and whose other previous winning rides include superstar mare Lizziemary.
It was a successful morning for Millicent, who jumped quick double clears on both her rides in the class to take second with Forsythe John VDL as well as fifth on Calcourt Adje T. Kelly Connor and Lacara II finished third in a time of 38.68 seconds.
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