Rider achieves long-awaited first international win at Hartpury horse trials

  • WILTSHIRE-based Gubby Leech, 38, was delighted to score his first international eventing victory in the NAF Five Star Superflex CCI3*-L at NAF Five Star Hartpury horse trials.

    “I’ve worked really hard in this sport for a long time and it’s just been a case of having the belief that one day it will happen,” Gubby said. “I’ve just had to be patient and realistic with the horses I’ve had and tried to do the best I can with them.”

    Gubby, who has competed at five-star, was riding the smart 10-year-old Royal Harvest, who is owned by long-term supporters Sarah and Jonathan Houston.

    “Sadly his owners haven’t been able to attend as they have Covid, so they’ve been glued to the live-stream,” Gubby said. “This horse was sent to me as a four-year-old with a napping problem, and thankfully I’ve kept the ride ever since.”

    Foot-perfect jumping phases on top of a 31.3 dressage secured this pair top spot in the Hartpury horse trials results, with the two riders ahead of him going into the showjumping both faulting.

    “I haven’t had a rail down all season with this horse, which gave me confidence, and his cross-country round impressed me – he is a class horse with the scope to go on.”

    Lucy Robinson, 22, was surprised to secure second aboard Michelle Bartlett’s 10-year-old Cosmic Charm.

    “His showjumping is his weakest phase, so for us to go clear is brilliant,” said Lucy, who has produced this horse from the start. “He’s not the most careful, but he is a cross-country machine.”

    Lucy, who rides full-time, is now aiming for Blenheim CCI4*-L with this son of Future Illusion.

    Another young rider impressed in this section, with 21-year-old Sasha Hargreaves finishing third with her own Woodlands Be Daring, adding just four cross-country time-faults to their 29.9 dressage. It’s remarkable that Woodlands Be Daring is competing at all with his back catalogue of injuries.

    “‘Desmond’ got loose and fell over on some concrete in 2018, which meant six months off,” explained Sasha. “Then I got pneumonia and couldn’t ride him for six months as he’s very strong, and once we got going again, he had to undergo colic surgery. One month after that he had to undergo another operation for a really bad heart arrhythmia.

    “But he’s actually come back from the colic better than he was before, which my vet Spike Milligan said is incredibly unusual.”

    Hartpury Horse Trials results: close battle in CCI2*-L

    JUST 2.1 penalties separated the top seven in the NAF Five Star M Power CCI2*-L, but 18-year-old Ibble Watson came out on top, by the narrowest of margins, beating second-placed Imogen Murray by 0.1 of a penalty.

    Hartpury horse trials results: Ibble Watson rides Candito to victory in the two-star long section at Hartpury

    Ibble was riding Candito, an eight-year-old owned by her mother Erica, who used to ride at the top level. Third going into the showjumping, Ibble kept her cool to finish on her 27.7 dressage.

    “I didn’t expect to win as we’re both inexperienced, so it’s quite a shock,” said Ibble, who has switched from a standard to a double snaffle to help with control as Candito is strong. “I’ve had him since he was five, but he broke his hip falling over in the stable when he was six – it completely came out of the socket – but we lasered it daily and he wore a magnetic rug, and has come back from it.”

    The elegant but “tricky” runner-up MDSandyhill Zorro, owned by MS Team and Julie Skillin, has come a long way with his rider Imogen Murray.

    “When he gets worried, he runs away from things, so I worked on changing the way I rode him over the winter,” Imogen explained. “I had to learn to be brave with him and this year, I can’t fault him – he’s one of the most talented horses I’ve ever sat on.”

    Jason Hobbs rounded off the top three with Gillian Bulmer’s 11-year-old Rusticoats, completing on their 28.3 dressage.

    “I bought him from Goresbridge when he was a youngster and he’s taken a while to produce,” Jason said. “He’s opinionated but a horse of a lifetime with phenomenal talent.”

    Sadly Mintridge Larkspur, a home-bred owned by Eleanor Ford, suffered a fatal injury while going cross-country in the CCI3*-L under his rider, Eleanor’s husband Mark Ford.

    • This report in also available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 19 August, 2021

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