Royal reception for Rio stars
The year began with an evening of celebration for Great Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic teams as HRH The Duchess of Cornwall welcomed medallists, owners and members of the BEF’s core support team to a reception at Clarence House. With over 70 guests in attendance, the night celebrated the success of the British teams who brought home 14 medals. The para-dressage team were among the attendees and they helped to defend Great Britain’s unbeaten record at the Paralympic Games.
“I just wanted to congratulate all of you, the riders, owners, grooms and trainers, and of course the horses – I wish that we could have got them here tonight. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for Tokyo, and I hope we’ll be seeing you all in four years’ time with a lot of medals around your necks. Congratulations again.”
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall
Para-reining – a new sport
In May a new equestrian sport was born as former Paralympians, Ricky Balshaw and Sir Lee Pearson swapped saddles to join para-reiners at the inaugural Para-Reining Championships at the Garden of England International Spring Show. While this was a first in Britain, the riders in competition were all bidding to qualify for the Para-Reining World Championships in Holland in July. The team that flew out consisted of Lee, Ricky and dressage rider Fiona Durston. They all put in solid scores to take Team Silver, just beaten by an experienced Canadian team.
Nick Skelton and Big Star bow out
Crowds packed into the Castle Arena at the Royal Windsor Horse Show to say goodbye to two of Showjumping’s most iconic combinations as Nick Skelton and Big Star bowed out of competition. A special retirement ceremony was held for the two-time Olympic gold medallists, with owners Gary and Beverley Widdowson receiving special mentions for their work with the legendary horse. HM The Queen and HRH The Duke if Edinburgh watched on as footage and stills from Nick’s stellar career were played on the big screens, while team mates, John Whitaker, Michael Whitaker and Scott Brash joined him in the area. Before his lap of honour, Nick swapped his Team GB jacket for tweed and removed the saddle and saddle cloth from his Rio Gold win as the audience applauded the man who has made over 180 appearances for his country.
Nick Skelton with his long time groom, Mark Beever and Big Star
Youth success for GB
It was another fantastic year for Great Britain's youth teams, with medals across the board at European Championships. In eventing, it was an amazing competition for the British Juniors, made up of Phoebe Locke, Richard Coney, Imogen White and Bubby Upton, who claimed Team Silver at Millstreet, while Bubby also finished top of the Individual standings and took Gold. Sam Ecroyd, Alex Kennedy, Katie Bleloch and Felicity Collins fought hard for the British Young Rider team and managed to take home Team Bronze with Alex claiming Individual Silver. There was more success for the ponies in Kapsovar as Georgina Herrling and Saffron Osborne made it a British one-two in the Individual rankings. Georgina won Gold whilst Saffron Creswell and Connie Gill contributed towards a Team Silver.
In Showjumping, the British Pony team enjoyed similar success with a Team Silver thanks to Lilly Freeman-Attwood, Ellie Hall McAteer, Fraser Reed and Alana Clutterback. In Samorin the British Young Rider team claimed Team Gold after superb performances from Jake Saywell, Emily Moffitt, Amy Inglis and Millie Allen saw them outjump Belgium and Italy to the top spot. Amy also took an Individual honour, winning the bronze medal in the young rider final. It was a similar story in the Children’s competition as Great Britain once again won Team Gold thanks to the efforts of Angel Tough, Jocasta Symons, Matilda Lanni and Oliver Fletcher who also won Individual Bronze. The Junior riders topped off GB’s medal haul with another team medal, this time silver won by Robert Murphy, Scarlett Charles, Harry Charles and Jack Whitaker. Harry Charles won the sixth and final medal of the championships, taking Individual Silver to cap off an amazing championships.
The British Showjumping Pony Team (L-R: Lily Freeman Attwood, Allanna Clutterbuck, Ellie Hall Mcateer and Fraser Reed)
Finally, in dressage, Sophie Taylor, Anya Kolleth, Megan Barratt and Holley Kerslake helped to take Team Bronze for the British Pony Team. The British Young Riders just missed out on a medal in Roosendaal while the British Juniors also picked up valuable experience.
Brash wins in London in the battle of Britain
The Longines Global Champions Tour landed in London at the start of August as the world’s best showjumpers went head-to-head at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Almost five years to the day, it was two of Great Britain’s London 2012 gold medallists who took the top two placings. Scott Brash and Ben Maher, along with nine other riders, took to the arena for a very competitive jump-off. Scott, on board Hello Forever, owned by Lady Harris, was the penultimate rider and went into lead with an incredibly fast time of 38.62 seconds to put the pressure on his compatriot. Aboard a new ride in Madame X, Ben gave it everything as he flew over the London landmark fences but was just off the mark, finishing 0.4 seconds behind Scott to give him the win and the €300,000 prize.
Great Britain crowned eventing champions
Great Britain’s eventing team were crowned European champions for the first time since 2009 as they pipped Germany to the top spot in Strzegom. On a dramatic final day, Ros Canter, who was making her senior debut, got the team off to a perfect start in the showjumping finale, going clear with Caroline Moore's and her own Allstar B. She was then followed by the most experienced member of the team, Tina Cook who also jumped clear with Elisabeth Murdoch and Keith Tyson’s Billy The Red. Final rider in for the team, Nicola Wilson delivered another stunning clear round with James and Jo Lambert’s Bulana, finishing inside the time to secure the European team title. Oliver Townend completed the quartet but sadly missed out on the showjumping phase with Cooley SRS, owned by Angela Hislop after they picked up a minor injury the day before in the cross country, playing a vital role as pathfinders for the team. There was further delight for Nicola Wilson as she won Individual Bronze just ahead of her team mates, Tina and Ros who made it into the top five.
“We had a fantastic culture and team environment from beginning to end.
Sometimes it’s not the winning, it’s the way that you win, and we won with precision
Richard Waygood, Performance Manager for the British eventing team.
Eight medals for Great Britain’s unbeaten Para-dressage team
The next stop was Gothenburg, for the Dressage, Showjumping and Para-dressage Longines FEI European Championships. Great Britain’s para-dressage team were the first to go and this year saw a few new faces included in this year’s squad. Suzanna Hext and Julie Payne got their first of three gold medals in their Individual tests with Suzanna’s coming on board Charlie and Pammy Hutton’s Abira and Julie’s aboard Athene Lindebjerg, owned by Di Redfern. The most experienced member of the team, Sophie Wells MBE, began her campaign with a silver medal with C Fatal Attraction, owned by Charlotte Hogg while Erin Orford took bronze with Annabel Whittet’s, Dior. Next came the team tests and the pressure was on the new squad to maintain their predecessors’ winning record. After good scores from Sophie, Erin and Suzanna, Julie clinched victory for the team with a score of 78.107%, just shy of her personal best, to ensure Great Britain maintained their unbeaten record at all major championships. And it was a golden final day for the team as Sophie won gold in her Freestyle class, while Julie and Suzanna secured their third gold medals of the competition, taking their incredible medal haul to six golds, one silver and one bronze.
Great Britain's Para-dressage team (Front L-R: Suzanna Hext, Julie Payne | Back L-R: Erin Orford, Sophie Wells MBE)
Carriagedriving history in Germany
Whilst Great Britain’s para-dressage team were enjoying the spoils in Sweden, Tara Wilkinson was making history in Germany at the FEI World Driving Championships for Ponies. The 20 year-old, making her senior debut for Great Britain, was competing in the pairs competition with Emma Burge’s Welsh Section C ponies, Capitola Mr Houdini, Belle Du Jour and Menai Lone Ranger. She finished seventh in the dressage phase before moving up to second place after a very quick marathon phase. With just the cone driving left to go, the young Brit managed to finish with just one cone down and one time penalty. The pressure was on the German leader who was last to go but he was unable to hold his nerve as he accumulated more penalties to push Tara to the top of the leaderboard, making her the country’s youngest goal medallist.
Great Britain's Tara Wilkinson
Oliver Townend wins second Burghley title
Oliver Townend capped off a fantastic summer by winning his second Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials title on board Ballaghmor Class, owned by Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val Ryan. The European gold medallist headed a leaderboard full of British combinations, which made for a fantastic final day for the Burghley crowd. In a tense showjumping round with Gemma Tattersall and Piggy French, the 35 year-old managed to hold his nerve with the young horse, making its 4* debut to finish with a good enough score to beat his British rivals. Gemma finished second while Piggy took third. Fourth place went to the young Tom McEwen who climbed four places on the final day.
Watson-Greaves reigns supreme at the Nationals
Riders from up and down the country arrived at Stoneleigh Park in September for the British Dressage National Championships. From the top riders to talented amateurs, the nationals provides great dressage at different competition levels. This year’s top prize was well contested by a number of pairs, none of which were Charlotte Dujardin who was busy enough nurturing 10 horses in other classes over the weekend. Lara Butler came out on top in the Grand Prix and Carl Hester won the Grand Prix Freestyle but neither of them could compete with Hayley Watson-Greaves who claimed the overall national title. The World Class Podium Potential rider came close in both classes with her own 13 year-old Rubins Nite of whom she has built up a long term partnership with. They scored an impressive 78.43% in their Freestyle, adding on to their 76.18% in the Grand Prix which proved to be enough crown them the British National Dressage Champions.
“I can’t quite believe it; I’m a little bit speechless! Squeak (Rubins Nite)is just absolutely awesome and tries his heart out every time. I love him to pieces, we have a great partnership and he’s got me where I am today.”
Tattersall becomes second Event Rider Masters winner
After a successful first year, the Event Rider Masters (ERM) returned in 2017 and saw its first female winner, Gemma Tattersall. The 32 year-old came into the series with the goal of winning the overall title and she produced top performances across the season. Gemma got her campaign off to a historic start with The Pebbles Syndicate’s Quicklook V at Chatsworth, becoming the first woman to win a leg of the ERM. She won her second leg of the competition at Gatcombe, clocking the quickest cross country time of the competition, this time with her former race horse, Arctic Soul, owned by the Soul Syndicate. In her three other ERM appearances, Gemma finished fourth twice and seventh once and it was in leg six where she secured her overall victory, accumulating enough points to take an unassailable lead into the final weekend. As well as being crowned the series champion, Gemma picked up £30,000 in prize money.
Pritchard wins U23 title
In a week full of festivities and top class dressage and showjumping, the Olympia London International Horse Show played host to the World Class Programme U23 British Championship Final. Featuring riders from the successful youth teams, 24 combinations went head-to-head on the Saturday morning over a very tricky course built by London 2012 Olympic Games course-designer Bob Ellis. Chloe Winchester, part of the World Class Programme Podium Potential squad, was the first of three to go clear in the first round but she was unable to match the superb Christie Pritchard who finished three seconds ahead of the field with Hans Christian Jacobsen’s 14 year-old bay gelding, Waldermar.