Mammoth 12-hour journey pays off for teenager in opening Royal International jumping championship

  • The first national showjumping championship of the 2022 Royal International Horse Show, the Oakley Coachbuilders BS Winter Grade JC Championship, was won in tremendous style by 15-year-old Scottish rider Fergal Holohan riding the flashy little chestnut mare Little Flexible.

    The pair cruised to top spot from mid-draw in a six-way jump-off and, despite some strong challenges, their winning time of 44.95sec couldn’t be beaten.

    “I’ve been wanting a big win forever and I just didn’t get my chance at the Highland Show recently so I was really hoping it came good here – and I hope for the same again at HOYS!” said the Ayrshire-based teenager after his debut victory at the Royal International.

    “It’s a really big arena – you can get lost in there, especially on a 14.2hh,” he said. “I moved easy to fence two in the jump-off and just made sure I got back for the [Hickstead] planks and then it flowed really nicely after that – she gave me a great feel in there.

    “I thought Ruby [Barrs, fifth on Conella] was going to pip me at the post because in all the qualifiers we’ve done it’s been between me and her. Kieran had a good round too, so it was good to get in front of him.”

    Fergal has been riding the nine-year-old Cruising mare for two years, producing her up through the levels.

    “She’s gone up and up the ladder and has qualified for the newcomers, Foxhunter and pony showjumper this year,” he said. “We knew she could really jump when we got her, she’s a bit strong sometimes, but she gives you an amazing feeling and as soon as she went in that ring she listens to you. She loves her job and wanted to go round again today!

    “I take her up the hill and down the beach at home, she’s so easy.”

    Fergal first rode in the International Arena at the Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead as an 11-year-old and now has three ponies and three horses at home.

    “I’m thankful for every single one of them,” he said, also paying tribute to the help of his family, primarily mum Fiona and his dad, who brought him on the 12-hour journey down from West Scotland.

    Fergal had warmed up for the JC Championship with victory in the 1.05m Voltaire Design Hickstead pony open in one of the outside rings the previous day riding the 14-year-old mare Kira-Bell.

    “It certainly made the trip worth it – two wins, we can’t ask for more!” said mum Fiona.

    Fergal says he’d love to pursue a career as a showjumper but plans to wait until he finishes school to make a decision. In the meantime, he’s hotfooting it to Wales this weekend before heading to the BS national championships at Stoneleigh.

    The runner-up spot went to Kieran Taylor riding the seven-year-old Krakboom D’Euro, with Bella Wild taking third on Merllyns Mermaid.

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