Eventing highlights: Mason makes a comeback *H&H Plus*

  • A mother of four who completed Burghley nearly 30 years ago wins with her new purchase

    Solihull (2), West Midlands

    “If I don’t get back into it now, I never will,” declared BE100open section C winner, Gill Mason, who rode round Burghley in 1991 and – four children later – decided 2020 was the year she was going buy another event horse.

    “I’ve been competing on and off on my daughter Katharine’s horses, but as she has been home from university since lockdown and doing them herself, I thought it would be a good time to get something of my own,” said Gill, who penned a wanted advert and subsequently teamed up with Trinity O Really, who had been campaigned to intermediate by Frankie Dettori’s daughter, Ella.

    “My jumping trainer, John Adams, who also trains Ella, knew the horse and thought he would be perfect for me,” said Gill, whose background is steeped in eventing – she was head girl for renowned trainer Ruth McMullen at the same time Pippa Funnell was based there.

    “They were the most amazing years,” she said. “Ruth still occasionally helps Katharine and me; she’s as enthusiastic and inspiring as ever.”

    Katharine finished sixth in the open novice – a result that prompted Gill to add, tongue in cheek: “We have our own little league going and it’s one-nil to me at the moment.”

    Georgie Wood put an unscheduled dismount at Little Downham (2) firmly behind her when she pulled off a win in open novice section X with Greenlanes Hudson.

    “Little Downham was his first run of the season and I came in a bit too fast to a rail before a ditch. He chipped in a stride and I ended up going straight over his head,” explained Georgie, who has produced the eight-year-old since he was four.

    “It was the first time anyone had ever fallen off him, so he was understandably rather surprised to see me peering up at him from the bottom of the ditch.”

    Their trip across country here was altogether smoother. The pair added nothing to their first-phase score of 26.5 to clock up a comfortable win.

    Borde Hill (2), West Sussex

    Three first-time winners nabbed victory in their respective sections at Borde Hill (2).

    Seven-year-old Isington Illusion scored his first win when he topped a BE100 section under 21-year-old Harriet Ford.

    “I bought him two years ago when I was working for Nana Dalton. He’s very cheeky and behaves a bit like an 11hh pony, dragging me around everywhere, but he has gone from strength to strength this year,” said Harriet, who now runs her own yard near Dorking and has five horses to compete, ranging from BE90 to intermediate.

    Emily Martin made her final run on her pony, Knockmullen Foxy, a winning one when she headed a BE90 section.

    “We went to Borde Hill two years ago for my first very event and came second in a BE80(T), so to finish on this note is wonderful,” said Emily, who at 5ft 8in has now outgrown the 11-year-old Connemara mare.

    Emily, 15, is a pupil at Churcher’s College in Hampshire and divides her spare time between riding and swimming – she swims for Alton and District Swimming Club.

    “I normally swim early in the morning and ride in the afternoons after school. Swimming really helps my fitness for eventing,” she said.

    Old Surrey and Burstow branch of the Pony Club member Daisy Dogger headed the under-18 BE90 aboard Derrymore Duncans Desire, whom she has owned for three years.

    “I have worked very hard with him, especially in the dressage,” said Daisy of the 15.3hh Connemara gelding. “It’s taken years to get him to relax as he’s a very tense horse. All he’d done when we bought him was jump in a straight line.”

    “I felt like giving up”

    Sally Butler almost hung up her eventing boots last year after the up-and-coming horse she owned at the time suffered a serious injury, but a talented six-year-old mare called Diamonds Eclipse restored her mojo. The pair clocked up their first win together at Solihull (2) in a novice section.

    “I had produced my previous horse to the same level when she broke her pedal bone,” said Sally. “I bought ‘Daisy’ last summer with help from my mum, my sister and co-owner, Hilary Marshall.”

    Sally, 25, has help from Ian Woodhead and Ginny Turnbull, and rides and teaches from her family’s yard near Loughborough.

    Sally currently works mornings for a local hunting yard, but would like to build up her own team of horses and owners and event full time.

    “I owe everything to my family and Hilary – without them there is no way I’d be able to do what I’m doing now.”

    “It was like driving a Ferrari with bicycle pedals”

    Tonia Ainsworth was the surprised winner of a BE90 section at West Wilts (2).

    Her winning ride, the six-year-old Beechy Van Basco (Basil), has been on more trips to Tonia’s vets, B&W Equine, than he has to competitions.

    “He’s fragile to say the least,” said Tonia. “Things started to go wrong after he ran in very deep ground in October last year. He wasn’t lame, but he completely lost impulsion. It was like trying to drive a Ferrari with bicycle pedals.”

    Investigations failed to highlight the cause, but when lockdown began Tonia backed right off working Basil and instead focused on building up his strength in-hand.

    “We did turns on the forehand and rein-back – exercises to get him crossing over his legs and improving his suppleness,” she said. “When he started he could only shuffle backwards in fairy steps, but by the end of lockdown he was striding back 20 steps very easily.”

    The pair turned in a personal best dressage score of 19.5 and added just two cross-country time penalties.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 3 September 2020