Showjumping is back! Read highlights from shows across the country *H&H Plus*

  • As riders familiarise themselves with the new-look sport, Lottie Platt hits the ground running and Holly Smith debuts some exciting new talent, by Penny Richardson

    Pyecombe, West Sussex

    Local rider Lottie Platt won the major class, a 1.30m/1.40m handicap, on Indigo I at Pyecombe’s first affiliated show since the relaxation of lockdown. Lottie is usually seen on home-bred Team 55 horses, but seven-year-old Indigo, by Luidam, was bred in Wales by Castell Sports Horses.

    “I bought her after seeing her at Hickstead with Alex Hempleman as a four-year-old,” explained Lottie. “She has a special brain and knows she’s good, but lockdown has actually been good for us both. I’ve had to focus on training and despite being very low-mileage, she’s as forward as any horse of the same age. I’m hoping to do bigger classes next season and ranking classes when she’s nine. She certainly feels capable.”

    Daley Fisher added a 1.30m double clear on Curly Sue 163 to their win in the 1.20m open. Daley has been competing this 13-year-Hanoverian mare since August 2019.

    “She’s a really nice horse,” said Daley, who was Ben Maher’s head groom before returning to the saddle as manager of David and Louise Simpson’s DLS team.

    “When I was with Ben I didn’t have time to ride, so I stuck to being a groom,” he explained. “This is a great team to work with and I’m even busier now because Louise is expecting her third child and isn’t riding at the moment.”

    Twelve-year-old Ruby Light made her first attempt at 1.10m level a winning one. Ruby had a willing partner in Unbelievable Lady (Ash), usually Phillip Miller’s top ride, but back with her owner-breeders for embryos to be taken.

    “This was my best-ever day,” said Ruby, who won the earlier 1m open on Lady Warrior and is hoping to contest children-on-horses classes. “Ash is amazing to ride. She’s so kind and really looks after me.”

    Rectory Farm, Glos

    Laura Mantel was on form at Rectory Farm, winning two classes on Laura Renwick’s home-bred horses. After newcomers victory on six-year-old Maleficent II, a daughter of former international performer Parvati De Breve, she took the 1.30m honours with eight-year-old Maverick.

    This was Laura’s first show on Maverick. “He came home with me in March when we returned from Portugal and he’s already the yard favourite,” she said.

    Laura was impressed by her first show since lockdown. “We’re hopefully going to jump in France next week, so I needed to get the horses out. This show was so friendly and enjoyable, but the emphasis was on safety,” she said.

    “It poured with rain and the girl who ran the collecting ring got soaked, but she was still smiling at the end of the day.”

    Northcote Stud, Lancs

    Northcote Stud attracted a big entry for its opening post-lockdown show. The first warm-up was scheduled for 8.30am and the final horse entered the ring at 8.15pm.

    “It’s been an interesting time and what used to take five minutes now takes hours, but it’s nice to be back doing something,” said organiser Alistair Mizon.

    “We’ve had such good feedback from the riders, who have abided by the new rules. I now think that midweek training shows are the way forward for our sport, with double clears and qualifications at the weekends.”

    Onley Grounds, Warks

    Instead of preparing for Hickstead’s cancelled Derby, Holly Smith ended up taking a boxload of horses to Onley Grounds’ first BS show of the new regime.

    Among her rides was discovery runner-up, five-year-old Daphne Douglas, full-sister to Dougie Douglas, the horse that made Holly an international star. This was Holly’s first appearance on the mare and she was also having her maiden ride on the top working hunter MJM Laszlo, who won the 1.10m open.

    Her third new ride was Billy Chill, a seven-year-old Billy Mexico mare belonging to Holly’s pupil Ava Vernon. After a Foxhunter double clear, Billy Chill and Holly won the day’s main competition, an A/B/C handicap.

    Holly has owned Daphne Douglas from a foal. “She’s identical to her brother and a very nice horse, but she’s low-mileage, so we’ll have to wait and see,” she said.

    There is a possibility that Holly might be donning her showing gear for MJM Laszlo. “I’m friends with his owners and because there are no showing shows, I said I’d take him jumping. I’ve done working hunters in the past so never say never,” she laughed. “Billy Chill has now gone to Twemlows to have Emerald embryos taken, but when she’s back I’ll produce her alongside Ava.”

    Sixteen-year-old Ava made her own headlines two days later at Willow Banks, where she finished first and second in the 1.25m/1.35m class on Jolie Fleur Van De Noordheuvel and Here I Am B.

    Felbridge, Surrey

    Former British team event rider Chuffy Clarke has made the decision to become a full-time showjumper and she made the perfect start to her new career at her first show since lockdown by winning the 1.30m open at Felbridge, Surrey, on Dirk II.

    Formerly a four-star eventer, Dutch-bred Dirk began showjumping in 2018 and is now competing at 1.50m level.

    “He was much too careful for eventing and absolutely loves showjumping,” explained Chuffy. “I’d been thinking about changing disciplines for a while, but I couldn’t see how anything could equal the buzz from going across country. It was when Dirk and I started jumping big showjumping fences that I realised it’s equally exciting!”

    Surrey-based Chuffy is now adjusting her yard. “I sadly have to sell some eventers to buy showjumpers,” she added.

    This week in numbers

    12 hours of jumping at Northcote Stud’s first post-lockdown show

    2 British riders competing at the CSI4* in St Tropez last week (Scott Brash and Alexandra Thornton)

    3 new rides debuted by Holly Smith at Onley Grounds

    $75,000 the prize pot for the Split Rock (USA) CSI2* grand prix won by Jessica Mendoza with Dublin

    Ref Horse & Hound; 2 July 2020