Piggy March dominates with a double at Keysoe international *H&H Plus*

  • Piggy March keeps her Cooley in blustery conditions to score and an amateur lands her first international title

    Keysoe (4), Beds, 25–27 September

    Piggy March was on flying form at Keysoe’s international showcase, dominating the feature three-star and also coming home with two-star honours.

    She partnered Cooley Lancer to victory in the Keysoe Boutique CCI3*-S section C for Lancer Stud owners Marcus and Emma Craggs, remaining on their dressage score of 27.6. Piggy had set the standard in the dressage with a score of 27 aboard Sportsfield Top Notch, on whom she finished eventual fourth.

    Seven-year-old Cooley Lancer was purchased as a five-year-old from Richard Sheane’s Cooley Farm in Ireland.

    “At the time, Richard said he was the best young horse he had seen,” said Piggy of the son of Coeur De Nobless M, whom she describes as a “proper” horse.

    “We went to see him and liked him immediately; he’s a beautiful horse.

    “His flatwork has been a work in progress – he’s not a natural and is still developing. The three-star tests don’t really suit him because I don’t think they flow very well – he’s a big horse with a lot of power. He’s extravagant and tends to anticipate the transitions.”

    During a windy weekend at Keysoe, riders and horses had to contend with a “spooky” main arena for the dressage and showjumping phases, with flags blowing in the wind.

    “It created a lot of atmosphere and was educational for the horses,” added Piggy. “I was delighted with Cooley Lancer. He jumped superbly – he’s a special horse and very rideable. The cross-country course was fantastic and so was the ground. Course-designer Angus Smales has a great future ahead of him, he produced a course with lots to jump and nothing trappy.”

    Hot on the heels of Piggy – 1.7 penalties adrift in second – was her work rider Mark Davidson, who based himself with the 2019 Badminton victor in January this year. Mark steered the Sophie Dodds-owned Highlight K to the runner-up spot in this international class.

    “Training with Piggy in lockdown was hugely beneficial. We practised test riding and held in-house competitions,” said the Cumbrian rider. “He’s the only horse I brought down to Piggy’s but I have also been riding some of her young horses at home, which has been a great experience.”

    This is Mark’s second season with Highlight K, an eight-year-old son of Carrera. “He’s the easiest horse to ride,” he said. “We have been working hard on the flat and found a different way of thinking for him. He can be lazy in the dressage, so we have worked at getting him sharper off the leg. He’s very level-headed and a chilled-out horse.”

    Third place went to Sadie Abel and Ericantos VDB.

    The three-star cross-country produced 88.5% clear jumping rounds from the 78 starters, while the showjumping proved more influential with 41.5% of the combinations remaining fault-free.

    Piggy also set the bar high in the Shearwater CCI2*-S section A, taking the honours with I Diablo Joe, who was home-bred by owner Geoffrey Burton. The pair finished on their impressive dressage score of 22.5.

    The seven-year-old was produced up to novice by Samantha Hobbs. “I only started riding him in February, but we’ve since had four novice wins on the trot – he’s got very low mileage and I don’t want to push him too fast too soon,” said Piggy.

    “He’s a sweet horse and lots of fun to ride. He is also sensitive and always over-tries. We dropped him back to two-star after the CCI3*-S at Cornbury House, just to give him some more practice at this level.”

    Lauren West and Valentino 46 finished 5.7 penalties behind Piggy in second, with Phoebe Locke (Clotaire De Ferivel) in third.

    “All the elements came together”

    Amateur event rider Charlotte Andrews shed tears of joy on realising she had claimed the top honours in the Shearwater CCI2*-S section B with her horse of eight years, Millhollow Classic.

    “This is my first international win and so many of my friends who know ‘Milo’ were so happy we had finally done it,” she said. “It was the first time all the elements came together on the day. He doesn’t really like his dressage, but he is a big, grey horse who looks impressive. Training with Tracy Woodhead has really helped us.”

    The former head girl to Australian rider Sam Griffiths bought the now 16-year-old son of Limmerick from Georgie Spence and started eventing him in 2013.

    “He’s my only horse and we know each other inside out. He can be a bit of a grumpy old man, but he’s a superstar and so deserves this win – it is our best result by far. I asked everyone not to tell me my dressage score and I had no idea we were leading going into the cross-country.

    “He’s a cheeky chappy and loves his cross-country – he always shakes before the start and gets excited. He will be 17 next season, so I will just keep him at two-star level now – I think he’s telling me he doesn’t want to retire quite yet.”

    Charlotte works full-time for the Smith-Maxwell family in Lincolnshire, where she also keeps Milo.

    “I help manage young eventer Archie Smith-Maxwell and his team of horses, it’s a fantastic job. My time working for Sam worked wonders for my jumping and cross-country riding. He also taught me how to stay calm under pressure – he’s an incredible horseman,” she added.

    The pair finished on their dressage of 29.4, with Gubby Leech (James Bond Van’t Akkerhof) in second and Piggy French (Cooley Goodwood) in third.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 1 October 2020

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