Eventing highlights: Bright Star shines for Parry *H&H Plus*

  • Spending more time at home during lockdown results in a win for one amateur rider

    Dauntsey Park (1), Wilts

    Working from home during lockdown gave Andrew Parry and his winning BE90 partner, Autumn Bright Star, the opportunity to perfect their performance between the white boards. They were rewarded with a first-phase score of 29, which they stayed on to bag section S.

    Andrew works for British Petroleum (BP) as vice-president of HR for the Middle East. “Pre-Covid life saw me travel extensively and spend a couple of weeks a month away,” explained Andrew.

    “It has not always been easy and I would often turn up to an event feeling underprepared – and jet-lagged – but lockdown has allowed me to focus on my training and my dressage scores dramatically improved as a result.”

    Andrew teamed up with his partner, Autumn Bright Star, four years ago. “She’s my horse of a lifetime,” he enthused. “I lost my confidence with my previous horse and when it was time to replace him I had a very strict shopping list: a gelding with no white, within an hour-and-a-half’s drive of London and with a great eventing record. I ended up looking at Autumn – a skewbald mare in Aberdeen. But she had a fantastic record and when I’m nervous she just takes over and fills me with confidence.”

    Imogen Thompson and Clonboo Sam finished on their dressage score of 29.8 to head BE90 section U.

    “Sam is very experienced, but I’m relatively new to eventing,” explained Imogen, 16, who had concentrated on dressage until taking on the ride on Victoria Coyle’s 16-year-old 14.2hh gelding last November. “I’m learning to love going fast across country – it’s Sam’s favourite part. He’s very feisty and bold and I just have to go with him.”

    Dauntsey is well-known for its seat-of-the-pants cross-country tracks, designed by joint-organiser Beanie Sturgis. This time the three courses – from BE90 to novice – were up-to-height, but relatively straightforward, and took into account a collective lack of match practice.

    Gubby Leech was on sizzling form in the novice classes, winning one with James Bond Van ‘T Akkerhof and topping open novice section F with Epica.

    Little Downham B (2), Cambs

    Freelance rider and groom Becci Spalding, who won BE105 section N at Little Downham B (2) with Paula Evans’ Diamond II, has bounced back from bowel cancer.

    “I got the diagnosis four years ago. I was working for Paula [who also owns Andrew Hoy’s World Equestrian Games ride, Vassily De Lassos] at the time and started getting bad stomach cramps,” she explained. “I went to A&E and from there ended up in surgery undergoing a six-hour operation to remove a tumour from my bowel.”

    Becci teamed up with Diamond II in 2018 – around the same time that she received the news that she was in the clear: “He’d been ridden by Paula’s daughter, Georgina, but when she went to university Paula asked me if I’d like to take him on. Like me, he’d had a year off – his was due to a leg injury. He’s more experienced than me, so he’s showing me the ropes.”

    This was the duo’s second win in two starts this year. They also topped the BE100open at Poplar Park in March.

    Zoe Pinion and Lilly Hill were both making their 2020 debuts when they triumphed at Little Downham B (2).

    Freelance instructor Zoe and The Comanch (Angus) headed a BE80(T), while 15-year-old Lily bagged a BE90 with Auld Flame.

    Zoe bought six-year-old Irish-bred Angus on the strength of a video as a just-backed three-year-old. “He was primarily meant for my husband, Ben, to hunt and team chase – which he does as well – and I commandeered him for eventing at the end of last year,” explained Zoe.

    Lily Hill admitted to being “completely shocked” when her personal best dressage score of 26.5 was announced.

    “At nearly 16.3hh Flame is a big horse for me and has been quite set in her ways in the past, but she’s very sweet and calm,” said Lily, who was also third in the BE100open on her other ride, Knockenpower Rebel.

    A familiar equine face jumped his way to the top of the leaderboard in the BE100open. Sue Paybody’s 15-year-old Castletown Clover, who finished third at Blenheim last year with Piggy March, gave his new jockey, Ian McCluggage, a first BE win.

    “When his owner decided it was time for him to step down a few levels she asked me if I would be interested in taking him on,” explained Ian, who works for Piggy riding and producing her youngsters. “Of course I said yes!”

    The 29-year-old, who hails from Northern Ireland, traded a career in business for a life with horses. “Horses were always a hobby while I was at university, but after five years staring out of an office window I decided it was now or never to make a change,” said Ian, who upped sticks and moved first to Germany, to work in a dressage yard, and latterly to William Fox-Pitt’s, where he spent some time before snapping up his current role last summer.

    “I’m probably the oldest rider to be doing what I’m doing, but I wouldn’t change anything.”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 13 August 2020