National Horse Trials Championships 2016

The gloriously sunny and hot first weekend of August saw five great performances from ECCTG riders. The 90 team of Sarah Spearing (Timberwolf), Ashley Daniel (Robjan Ruby Mai), and Andrea Ash (Gran Jester) [now Andrea Houlbrooke, much to everyone’s surprise as she kept impending nuptials very secret all weekend, congrats Andy!!] was joined by Lucy Watson (Sixtysomething) as a substitute for Abi Unwin who’s horse Eric was unfortunately not able to compete. Abi was still able to compete however in the 100+ Open on Lunar Vision, having qualified individually and subsequently been recruited into the Area 20 team.

Abi set the competition off well with a strong performance in the dressage to score 30 and help the area team to an overall lead on both 3 scores and 4 scores counting. As Chef d’Equipe I didn’t get to enjoy the competitor’s reception on the Friday night as I was being escorted home by a relay of recovery trucks, but I hear it was a good night. It didn’t dampen anyone’s abilities however as all riders went well on the Saturday. Four solid dressage performances and 3 clear SJ rounds from the 90 riders put them in a strong position overnight of 6th place as a team but with only 9 penalties between them and the leaders. Ashley was lying in 5th individually and Sarah in 2nd!
Abi put in a great confident round on the xc as expected, this being her third consecutive attempt at the 100+ Open championships, adding just a couple of time penalties for going too fast. Similarly confident rounds from all the Area 20 team left them still leading going into the final day, though with less than a fence between them and 2nd placed Harewood.
On the Sunday morning Andy put in a fantastic pathfinder round to finish on her overnight score and show the girls how it was done. Sadly, our second rider Ashley had an unlucky moment at the ditch to pick up 20 penalties, but considering that her mare has only done a few events, it was a great performance to complete a tough championship track. Sarah judged her timing perfectly to complete 2 seconds under the time. There were a few tense moments as we waited to hear how the fence judges would score a momentary spook going into her wood, but there were no complaints when it was confirmed that she was clear and completed on her dressage score. Lucy also put in a strong clear round but slightly too fast to pick up a couple of penalties. The team competition had run so close that even with three clears we slipped down the order to finish 10th overall, but Sarah retained her overnight placing and enjoyed the mounted prize-giving as she took 2nd in her arena. This was a team of young and inexperienced horses so their result was particularly well earned and we look forward to seeing how they can represent ECCTG in future years.
The weekend was rounded off with the 100+ Open show jumping, which sadly saw things go awry for the area 20 team. Abi tried hard but sadly knocked out three poles, leaving her in a commendable 6th place in her arena, but alongside faults from the other riders was not quite good enough to retain the lead. Second place at the national championships is a fabulous result but it seems that overall win still eludes Abi so we await 2017 for another try!

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