Showjumping highlights: How choosing a pony over a quad bike paid off for one rider *H&H Plus*

  • Zak Beesley finds winning form, while the decision to choose a pony over a quad bike pays off for Liam Fitzgerald

    Northcote Stud, Lancs

    This venue was one of the first to run affiliated shows after the relaxation of lockdown, and competitors were almost spoiled for choice recently, with two shows in the space of four days, both with classes up to 1.40m.

    Preston-based Zak Beesley was the star of the opening show, riding Ultima 48 to victory in the 1.30/1.40m handicap. Since he took over owner Sharon Whiteway’s string in 2018, Zak has formed a great partnership with this Casall mare.

    “She’s fantastic and is the sort of horse anyone would love to ride,” he said. “She’s been placed in world ranking classes and is an absolute winner. She loves her job so much that she hates being left at home.”

    Because Ultima is now 16, Zak wanted to find a nice show for her. “It’s better for older horses to keep going. Young horses can pick things up again after a long break, but the older they get the more difficult it is,” he explained.

    “This was Ultima’s first affiliated show since lockdown, but we’ve been to every training show at Bolesworth. Nina Barbour is a gem who works so hard for the sport and it’s only right to support her.”

    Zak, who currently has eight horses to ride and youngsters to break in, rode for the Billy Stud for more than four years before moving back north, half-an-hour from his family home. “My mum and Sharon have been friends for a long time and it’s a great job. I love it,” said Zak.

    Christina Kenyon has been in awesome form, and she returned here to take the top two places in the 1.30/1.40m class at the second show. Her winning ride was the experienced stallion Calypsos Rampant Million, while second place went to her earlier Foxhunter winner, seven-year-old FVS Stakkato Costa Million.

    Dorset Showground, Dorset

    The decision to run two days of competition up to 1.40m paid off for the organisers here, with many new names making a first trip to the Gillingham venue.

    Having their first outing for more than a year, local rider Charlotte Lee and Zarina showed their rivals a clean pair of heels in the major class on day two. “I’m relieved that neither of us has forgotten how to do it. The pressure’s now on because we’ll have to keep it up,” said Charlotte, who fits in running a livery yard with her “proper job” as a police officer.

    Zarina, now 16, has been with Charlotte since the start of her career and has competed successfully in two-star classes at the London leg of the Global Champions Tour.

    “All my showjumpers get turned away in September while I concentrate on the hunting season, and then because of Covid-19 there was nothing for us to do,” explained Charlotte. “We hadn’t jumped a course of more than four fences before coming here, but she feels better than ever.

    “Zarina’s my only showjumper at the moment, so I’m going on the hunt for a couple of youngsters to produce,” added Charlotte.

    Yasmin Davis is another rider who lives close to the showground, and she and Zanbowa Z blew away the cobwebs with a 1.30/1.40m victory on day one.

    “I’m so pleased for the organisers because shows have been fairly quiet in the past and the all-weather surface is so good that they deserved more support,” said Yasmin, who bought 11-year-old Zanbowa unbroken and produced him for the start. “He’s ready for bigger and better things now,” she said.

    South View, Cheshire

    Liam Fitzgerald and Cowboy took first and second places in 1.30m open classes on their debut at the venue.

    “I’m hoping it won’t be long until we’re back jumping grands prix,” said Liam of the 13-year-old. “He’s the ultimate high-maintenance horse though. He’s very sharp, will only be ridden in a hackamore and you never know what he’s going to do next.

    “One day he’s quiet and the next he’ll come out bucking and squealing. He’s a pain in the proverbial at home, but I wouldn’t be without him!”

    Liam spends his time riding for owners and teaching in his local Wrexham area. “I’ve only got four horses in and I don’t run a business from home,” he said. “I’m not really from a horsey family. Mum rode a bit and my great-grandad was a jockey from Ireland. I didn’t start riding until I was 10 or 11 when I was offered a quad bike or a pony. I chose the pony and that’s how I stared my career.”

    Dean Valley Farm, Cheshire

    James Shore runs Shore Horses with his father, former British championship team rider Keith Shore, at home in Cheshire. At Dean Valley Farm, Cheshire, James won with the eight-year-old Manzano De Rigo, a son of Inschallah De Muze who has just moved up to 1.40m level, while Keith and the 17-year-old Mystic Hurricane took the runner-up spot.

    “I don’t often beat Dad, but luckily this didn’t upset his horse’s owner-breeder Betty Brandon,” said James. “She’s just bought a half-share in Manzano, so instead of being sold, he’s one we can keep.”

    The plan now is for James and Keith to share the ride. “I’m hoping to take Manzano to Bolesworth and then he’ll go abroad with Dad,” said James. “I’ll stay at home and work on the horses we have for sale and our youngsters.”

    This week in numbers

    1 & 2 Charlene Bastone’s placings in the main class at the Sussex BS show

    1 win each for sisters Christina and Zara Rawding at Bury Farm

    5 wins for Emma-Jo Slater at Bury Farm

    723 starters over two days at the Amanda Millward pony championships at Weston Lawns

    6 wins for Cumbrian rider Richard Nichol since his return from lockdown

    24 the age of Roscoes Golani, a double amateur winner at Keysoe

    Ref Horse & Hound; 30 July 2020