Who needs a bridle anyway? Tack mishap no hindrance for 1.50m grand prix winner

  • Everyone’s talking about tack mishaps and brilliant Irish horses from this week’s showjumping action. One entrepreneurial rider proved that losing your bridle needn’t be a hindrance when it comes to winning a CSI3* grand prix, while Irish riders, breeders and producers come away with a mighty medal haul at the world young horse championships.

    Read on for a round-up of all this week’s international showjumping news and results.

    Tack mishap: who needs a bridle anyway?

    Two fences from home in the first round of the CSI3* Thunderbird grand prix at the weekend, New Zealand rider Uma O’Neill suffered a tack malfunction that would have left most of us flailing for the brakes. Not Uma. She remained cool as a cucumber when, heading towards the 1.50m penultimate vertical on the 16-year-old stallion Clockwise Of Greenhill Z, the bridle slipped down over the horse’s ears.

    “It was very wet from the rain, and as I kept going around the first-round course, I noticed that there was more and more bonnet sticking up above his ears,” she explained. “Over [the B element] of the triple combination I got a little concerned and cantering to the Odlum Brown oxer, I thought the bonnet might be covering his eyes but he still felt amazing.”

    When they landed after the next jump, the bridle ended up underneath Clockwise’s nose but, fortunately, the stallion held on to the bit in his mouth. Uma managed to steer right towards the final oxer, which the grey stallion duly cleared in style, and across the line to post a clear round and earn their place in the jump-off.

    “I kept my leg on, and he felt confident, so I decided to keep going,” she said. “There was only one jump left, and he felt great.”

    The pair were safely stopped at the in-gate, where Clockwise’s bridle was returned to its rightful place. The duo’s belief in each other has been built in a decade-long partnership. Uma and Clockwise have climbed the ranks from junior jumpers to the Tokyo Olympics.

    “I have so much confidence in him. I know he knows the job, and it’s just about keeping him fresh, happy and loose in his body,” said Uma.

    After having a lighter campaign in spring and summer this year, during which the stallion spent “most of that time swimming at Premier Equine Centre” in Oakdale, California, he’s “come back feeling really fresh”.

    “It’s been super beneficial at his age, just keeping his fitness up with less concussion on his joints,” Uma explained.

    The pair suffered no such mishaps against the clock, returning to post the fastest clear (41.11sec) from five combinations through to the jump-off for the first international grand prix of the 2023 Thunderbird Show Park Season in Langley, Canada.

    “Tbird is a place that has really done a lot for my career and Clockwise’s career,” Uma said. “We’ve had many special memories here, and the Tidball family and staff at Tbird have always felt like family.”

    Great Britain’s Charlie Jones finished eighth in the grand prix riding Capitale 6.

    The future is bright for Irish breeders

    Once again, Irish breeders and producers dominated the FEI WBFSH Jumping World Breeding Championship for Young Horses in Lanaken, Belgium. Super Sunday began with a clean sweep of the podium in the five-year-old championship where an 11-strong jump-off over Bernard Mathy’s 1.30m track decided the medal honours. Six of these came from Ireland and it was Mikey Pender and the Bravo Hughes home-bred gelding HHS Ocala, a son of Urano De Cartigny out of Hera Van’t Roosakker (by Wandor Van De Mispelaere) who triumphed with an electric double clear. They proved half a second faster than silver medallists Niamh McEvoy on the smart bay stallion Boleybawn Alvaro (Dominator 2000 Z x Crown Z) bred and co-owned by Ronan Rothwell. In third was last year’s champion Ger O’Neill riding another Irish-bred Ballyshan BF Super Hero (Celtic Hero BZ x Lux Z), owned by Martin Egan and bred by Gary Doherty.

    “I was very close to winning a few times in the past, but always not quite fast enough,” said Mikey on claiming his first title. “HHS Ocala is a very careful and competitive horse and he really is a horse for the future.”

    Harry Allen enjoyed his moment on top of the podium after heading the seven-year-old final with the Italian-bred Kannan x Toulon mare Kumina Della Caccia. This lovely chestnut comes from the same damline as Kashmir Van Schuttershof and Harry was following in the footsteps of his older brother Bertram, who took the six-year-old title a decade ago.

    “Kumina Della Caccia is a fantastic horse and I even think she’s the best seven-year-old I have ever ridden,” said Harry. “Everywhere we go she just jumps fantastic and actually a round with four penalties is a bad result for her! We had a strong season with victory in the final class in Bratislava and she also jumped two fantastic rounds in Aachen. We actually sold her at our Aloga Auction last year, but we agreed that I could continue to ride her until she’s eight. Then we will make a new plan for her.”

    Best of the Brits was Leo Lamb with the all-conquering Gmail (Cornet Obolensky x Diamant De Semilly). After exceptional faultless performances in the opening rounds, the pair just picked up eight faults in Sunday’s final.

    “He jumped amazing in the first two qualifiers, double clear,” said Leo, who put down the final day’s faults to Gmail going “a bit too careful” after an issue in the warm-up. “It wasn’t his fault at all. But we live and learn. it was incredible to be there and to be part of it all.”

    The pair will next week be contesting three national finals at Horse of the Year Show.

    “We’re really excited,” Leo said. “He’s so intelligent and takes it all in his stride. As long as I keep my cool, he’s there or thereabouts. I’m very lucky to have a horse like him. I love him more than anyone or anything!”

    The six-year-old championship went to Germany’s Katrin Eckermann and Cascajall (Casallco x Comme Il Faut). Ireland’s Leah Stack took second on Laurina, owned and bred by Noel Cawley and by Stakkato Gold out of Cruising mare Rincarina, a top performer for Greg Broderick.

    In the consolation classes for young horses, Great Britain’s Georgia Wells and Nicole Lockhead Anderson collected a win apiece. Georgia took the five-year-old class with AES mare Obolenskys Dollar Girl (Cristallo 7 x Billy Mexico) while Nicole took the seven-year-old equivalent with Conthargo PS (Conthargos x Centadel).

    Iberio flies the flag

    FROM 50 combinations forward for the showcase Sires Of The World final, Ireland’s Denis Lynch rode Cornets Iberio to victory after an eight-way decider. Denis has had the son of Cornet Obolensky x Iberio I, who was bred by Heinrich Ramsbrock, since he was a five-year-old.

    “He is very competitive,” said Denis. “He did some breeding when he was younger, but he hasn’t been used so much in recent years. So maybe this will promote him. He is a real fighter.”

    Grand prix victory in Saint Tropez

    There were more Irish celebrations over at Hubside Jumping Grimaud in the south of France where Mark McAuley topped a 10-way jump-off to decide the CSI3* grand prix riding the 10-year-old mare GRS Lady Amaro. This was the combination’s second win of the week, after they also headed Friday’s 1.50m jump-off class. Great Britain’s Donald Whitaker also picked up a three-star win, heading Thursday’s two-phase on the 12-year-old mare Little Khira H.

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