Eventing highlights: Maverick makes the right moves *H&H Plus*

  • Helen Witchell bounces back from injury to score a win, while a course-designer practises what he preaches

    Keysoe (3), Bedfordshire

    Almost a year to the day since breaking her leg in a fall at Wellington, Helen Witchell notched up an intermediate win with Sarah Ross’ promising seven-year-old, MCS Maverick.

    “It was a simple fall that resulted in a really messy injury,” said Helen, who needed screws and pins to reconstruct her knee and tibia. “Lockdown was a bit of a blessing as it forced me to be quieter and give myself longer to heal. The injury doesn’t affect my riding, but it does take me a while to walk courses these days!”

    Helen, who is entirely freelance, rides Maverick only once a week. “Sarah schools and hacks him and I meet up with her once a week to jump him at various venues,” she explained. “It’s an arrangement that works really well. The horse is super-talented – this was only his third intermediate and he was fantastic across country.”

    Carrie Skelton kicked off her partnership with the Lancer Stud’s Ramesses B in the best possible style with a win in BE100open section L.

    Carrie, who breaks in and produces young eventers and showjumpers for the stud, had been given the opportunity to compete the son of Ramiro B earlier this season.

    “It’s such a treat to ride an experienced horse,” said Carrie of the 10-year-old, who has 25 points and was competed by stud owner Marcus Craggs’ daughter, Martha, last season. “He’s such a professional to ride. He can fool around at home, but as soon as he’s at a competition he knows what it’s all about.”

    Heavy rain on the Friday quickly turned Keysoe’s grass to mud, but the programme of extensive drainage work that has been undertaken on the site over the last few years meant the going held up extremely well.

    Northallerton (2), North Yorks

    One of the busiest amateur riders on the circuit took a break from her work as a building control surveyor and her second “job” grooming for world champion Ros Canter, to secure a win of her own in the BE105 at Northallerton (2) with Enjoy II.

    Sarah Charnley made the trip from Lincolnshire to Yorkshire on Friday evening to compete on the Saturday, drove back home the same evening and was at Ros’ yard at 5.15am the following morning to leave for Wellington, where Ros had runners in the advanced.

    “Work has been particularly busy post-lockdown as we are a small team of three people trying to cover a large area in rural Lincolnshire,” explained Sarah, who keeps 11-year-old “Etie” on a one-acre plot of land at home.

    Anna Harris and City Of Angels completed on their impressive dressage score of 24 to secure a BE90 win at the same event. The eight-year-old by Berlin does not always live up to her name.

    “She’ll bite anyone other than me who tries to come into her stable,” laughed Anna, 19, who has also had success in the dressage arena with Angel, qualifying for the winter championships at prelim level and competing at last year’s Home International.

    The course-designer’s view

    Angus Smales, who has been in charge of Keysoe’s cross-country courses since 2014, makes a point of trying to ride the tracks he designs. “I learn more in the five minutes I spend riding a course than I do watching horses jump round it all day,” he revealed.

    This time, however, his exploration rounds also proved fruitful as they led to wins in the open intermediate with Diana Birch’s A Bit Much and in the open novice with Susie Culloty’s Mount Corbitt Storm.

    “The wet weather on the Friday made it a ‘pin your ears back and grit your teeth’ kind of a test,” continued Angus.

    “But mud levels the playing field and those who know how to ride in it – that is, keep the revs up and support the front end – stand a greater chance. Wet, sloppy going adds around 15-20% difficulty to any track.”

    Angus, who has earned much praise for his bold, educational courses, explained that his designing philosophy is to prepare horses and riders for the higher levels.

    “I try to recreate the sort of challenges horses might meet at international and championship level on a smaller scale, so the horse is always being trained and prepared for the next step,” he said.

    The novice trakehner into water at Keysoe was a case in point. “At Tattersalls last year in the CCI2*-L I knew there was a jump straight into water. My young horse had never seen anything like it before, so I built one [for the May event] at Keysoe,” he said. “A lot of riders thanked me for it!”

    Like mother, like daughter

    Alice Hallows steered Quizical Z to a novice win at Keysoe. It was only a third start at the level for the six-year-old mare, who was bred by H&H’s features editor, Martha Terry, and is now owned by Anna Soroko and Robert Huxster.

    “I rode Quiz’s mum, Whimsical, after she had two embryo transfer foals by Cevin Z,” explained Alice, who backed Quiz for Martha as a three-year-old. “I was very lucky that when she needed to be sold, Anna and Robert stepped in so I could keep the ride. She has the same sparkle as her mother, but she is probably a better mover and jumper.”

    At Shelford Manor (2), Susan O’Connor’s home-bred Jagos Mill took the top prize in the open novice.

    It was a case of turning back the clock for rider Helen Scholl, who won a novice section at the same event in 2006 on the mother of her winning ride, Jagos Double Trouble, who was also owned by her breeder.

    A 50% strike rate

    Tinky Morris and Krystal Rayne scored their second win in four starts in a BE100 at Shelford Manor (2).

    The part-New Forest mare easily pinged around both jumping phases to add just 0.8 of a penalty to her dressage score of 28.8.

    “So long as you keep her onside she’s brilliant,” said Tinky, a freelance riding instructor. The pair have next year’s Science Supplements Cup at Badminton in their sights.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 10 September 2020