Showjumping highlights: Professional ambitions on display *H&H Plus*

  • A 14-year-old rider clinches four wins before preparing for heart surgery, while the Union flag flies in the Netherlands

    Bicton Arena, Devon

    Joe Dyer had a weekend to remember at Bicton Arena’s summer festival. As well as winning three senior classes on his horse Spartisan, plus a 90cm pony open with Cluedo III, the 14-year-old rider had to cut his show short in preparation for heart surgery.

    Joe, who lives near Bristol, missed a day of the show after getting the call to attend a Covid-19 test before being admitted to hospital.

    “We discovered Joe’s problem when he was playing around on his dad’s blood pressure monitor two months ago,” said his mother Catherine Sheppard. “He had the operation straight after the show and is now recovering at home. He should be back riding soon.”

    The Dyers acquired six-year-old Spartisan through a friend as a just-broken four-year-old, and Joe has produced the 158cm gelding. “We liked him so much, we also bought his dam,” said Catherine.

    Joe’s ambition is to become a professional rider. “At the moment, he loves horses and motocross – both are expensive hobbies that keep me busy and poor!” said Catherine.

    The other star was 12-year-old Alice Fleming, whose first visit to the venue from her Essex home was rewarded by seven wins in the 12 classes she contested on her two ponies. Alice first sat on a pony before she could walk and joined the Pony Club at four.

    “We made sure she had loads of fun before doing anything more serious, and she still gets plenty of variety,” said Alice’s mother, Debbie. “We only went to Bicton as it was on our usual Trailblazers championships weekend and we wanted to find another nice show.”

    Alice made her debut at junior newcomers level at Bicton and won her class on Loughgerald Billybob, also winner of two pony Derbies during the show. Her tally was completed by discovery and 80cm open doubles with Westmount Silver Mint.

    She is taught by her father Tony, an equine dental technician, with occasional “tweaks” from John Renwick.

    “We’ve now booked to go to Onley Grounds for five days. Going to Bicton has given us the travel bug!” added Debbie.

    Harrogate Riding Centre, North Yorks

    An eight-and-a-half-hour trip to Harrogate Riding Centre’s pony festival proved well worthwhile for brother-and-sister duo Lewis and Millie Lawson, who went home to Aberdeen with six wins.

    It was after a chance conversation that the Lawson family decided to make the journey to Yorkshire.

    “Mark McGowan told me he was course-building at Harrogate and suggested that we go,” explained father David Lawson. “He said it was a nice place and he wasn’t wrong. The people were very friendly, it was well organised and we had a lovely show.”

    Twelve-year-old Millie’s 138cm ride, Noahs Lady, was on incredible form, winning all four classes she contested at their first outing since March. Millie, who went out of 128cm classes at the end of last year after a win at Olympia, got 13-year-old Noahs Lady in August.

    “It took a while for them to click, but they’ve now got a good partnership,” said David. “Millie’s incredibly hard-working and will ride morning, noon and night until she gets it right. We call her ‘Millie many ponies’ at home!”

    Lewis, meanwhile, celebrated his 14th birthday at Harrogate with two 1.10m open wins on his 148cm ride, 17-year-old Toy Story.

    “We got Toy Story from the Nelson family during lockdown and this was their first show together. She’s an older pony who’s seen and done it all, which is perfect to take Lewis into bigger classes,” explained David.

    The Nelsons must have been impressed by Lewis’ efforts, as they also asked him to partner a catch ride. Hoofprint Caleb needed to complete his junior Foxhunter qualification and he and Lewis obliged with double clears in two classes.

    Talking point: Academy aces

    Huge entries were the order of the day at the academy finals that finished off this year’s NAF Five Star British Showjumping Championships. There were individual classes from 60cm to 1.10m, while five team championships gave many a first taste of the pressures of riding on a team.

    Judi Piper-Dadswell’s Sussex academy squad captured the mini and maxi pony team titles. The new midi team champions are Norfolk, while Area 36 and Scotland took the intermediate and advanced horse team honours.

    Win or lose, a great time was had by all, not least the youngest rider of all, six-year-old Bella Dunseath, who rode a double clear for the fourth-placed Berkshire and Oxfordshire mini team on her fabulous pony, Zoom To The Moon.

    Dutch Youngster Festival, Wierden, the Netherlands

    Over four days, Great Britain’s youth Nations Cup teams and individual riders wowed with a string of spectacular performances.

    Four teams were dispatched to the Netherlands, taking top honours in both the pony and children-on-horses team competitions, with three British riders claiming their respective grands prix.

    The children’s team of Chloe Lemieux (Barika Van De Helle), Olivia Sponer (Crazy Girl), Sophie Evans (MHS La Scala) and Phoebe Farman (Calle) claimed victory with a zero score in a nail-biting finish.

    In the pony Nations Cup, Great Britain’s Hannah Barker (Ammanvalley Santino), Megan Li (Harry), Elissa Herrmann (Lapislazuli) and Claudia Moore (Elando Van De Roshoeve) beat Germany by one penalty.

    The Team GBR young rider squad finished equal second behind Denmark.

    Tatiane Mauree, 15, was the first Brit to take individual honours, when heading the pony grand prix with her prolific mare Horseabout Zibu. Keeping the Union flag flying was 19-year-old Allana Clutterbuck, who won the young rider grand prix with Vykinbay, while Red Morgan, 16, and the British-bred True Blue III triumphed in the junior equivalent, just ahead of Ben Clark on Sam Van De Helle.

    Olivia Sponer’s first chance to ride on a British team came courtesy of her mare Crazy Girl II, who won all three children-on-horses viewing trials they contested. Olivia got her first horse a year ago, but Crazy Girl, a German-bred 11-year-old, was a step up.

    “She’s only little but has a big stride. Her name doesn’t suit her at all,” said Olivia, who celebrated her 14th birthday on the way to Wierden.

    The Sponers have homes in London and Ascot, but are based in Ascot full time. “It’s fantastic. I can look out of my window and see the horses,” said Olivia, who also competes her pony stallion Top Silvio Hastak.

    “It’s my last 138cm season, so he’ll be sold after Liverpool. Then I’ll ride 148cm ponies as well as the horses,” she added.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 20 August 2020