Young sisters take a main-ring final apiece at Hickstead’s Royal International

  • The Rogers sisters opened the main-ring jumping finals at the Prenetics Royal International Horse Show (21 July) by taking a national title apiece.

    Izabella Rogers, 13, was the first to claim a win, in the Oakley Coachbuilders winter JC final with Neil 55, then her 11-year-old sister Sophia kept it in the family when she topped the Pony Of The Year winter 128cm final with Whinney Lass.

    Izabella led the JC final from the front with her mother Nicola’s nine-year-old gelding, jumping the first clear of a tough opening round, then setting an untouchable lead as jump-off pathfinder.

    The partnership delivered the quickest of three double clears by almost two seconds, and even those who faulted were unable to match her time.

    “When Mum read out the drawn order this morning I was a bit worried — I’ve been first before but it’s just the nerves of having to set a time and then everyone trying to beat you,” said Izabella, who had also delivered a first-round clear on her novice Queen Star. “I just went in there thinking ‘I’ve got to do this’.”

    The win was all the more rewarding as Izabella spent four and a half months in a cast and another three months in a boot after breaking her leg when she came off Neil at home last summer.

    “When I started riding him again in November, I thought I couldn’t do it – I didn’t even want to be let off the lunge, and my mum had to be right next to me,” she said. “If he even set one foot out in front of her, I’d scream and get off. But after a couple of weeks, I got more comfortable, and then one day, I asked if I could jump again.”

    She set her sights on the Foxhunter second rounds with just two weeks left to get her double clears in and has since qualified for Horse of the Year Show, as well as for this final.

    Izabella said that Neil, who the family have owned since he was four, has a “loving” personality but can be sharp and is horse-shy in the warm-up.

    “It’s been all about learning and understanding all his different quirks,” she said. “Over the past couple of weeks and months Neil and I have just grown a bond and I’ve got so much trust in him now.  I can put him down to an upright and say ‘jump this long’ or ‘hey, wait for me’ and jump it deep, and he just picks up.”

    Sophia followed up on her sister’s emotional victory with another title for the brilliant 18-year-old mare Whinney Lass — who was heading this final for the fourth consecutive year.

    “My sister won it twice [on her] and I won it last year as well,” Sophia said. “She is just a superb pony and knows what she is doing.

    “It gave me more confidence going in knowing my sister could do it when she fell off and broke her leg on that pony. It was a really happy moment seeing her win,” she added.

    The 128cm final was another challenging track, which produced five eliminations and allowed just two combinations through to the jump off.

    “Where the arena goes up and down, the jumps are sometimes on a slant which makes it really hard,” Sophia explained.

    The pair jumped second of the two contenders in the jump off, beating Cate Kerr and 14-year-old Taggarts Express to the title by 2.51 seconds.

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