Hickstead first-timer speeds to eventers’ challenge win on pint-sized mare

Trailblazers Nicky Hill and the pocket rocket Kilrodan Sailorette proved too quick to catch as they secured a speedy win in Hickstead’s MS Amlin eventers’ challenge.

Two-time winners Paul Tapner and Bonza King Of Rouges came agonisingly close to securing a back-to-back hat-trick, but stopped the clock 1.15 seconds behind the winning pair to settle for second.

Nicky and the feisty 15.1hh chestnut mare were drawn first to go in the fiercely competitive class, held on Thursday (25 July) in the iconic international arena at the Longines Royal International Horse Show.

The pair quickly settled into a fast rhythm, with the quick little mare wasting no time at fences and eating up the ground in between.

Despite rolling one pole at the second element of the Devil’s Dyke, which added a four-second penalty, nobody could catch their lightening-fast time of 121.65.

“I hoped she would have a chance of doing quite well, I didn’t think she would beat Paul, but I went in there hoping to give it a good shot,” said Nicky.

“I went in there thinking I just had to go for it, to set the bar high and give everyone something to ride for.

“She’s awesome but she is so bold — too bold — I wasn’t sure if she might try to jump from the top [of the Hickstead bank] so I came into it and thought ‘right, you can go, but don’t do that!’. She’s tiny, but she has a serious jump on her.”

This was the first trip to Hickstead for Worcestershire-based Nicky, who finished best British first-timer at Badminton this year aboard MGH Bingo Boy.

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The 27-year-old has been taken the Boherdeal Clover mare from novice to CCI4*-S over the past three seasons, jumping clear across country at Barbury earlier this month.

Nicky added she makes up for her trickiness in the dressage with her “awesome” jump.

She is the definition of chestnut mare, such a madam. She is harmless, but a real diva,” Nicky laughed. “This is the first eventers’ challenge we have done and I thought it had to be her sort of class!”

Gemma Tattersall and the multiple international-winning mare Chico Bella P were drawn last to go and produced the fastest of the clear rounds to finish third in a time of 125.03.

For a full report, don’t miss next week’s issue of Horse & Hound — out Thursday, 1 August.