The Pocklington School equestrian team are 2019 National Champions of the 70/75cm Jumping with Style event after an impressive performance at the National Schools Equestrian Association’s annual competition. Deputy Head and Teacher i/c Equestrian Clare Bracken and Upper Sixth pupil and Equestrian Captain, Poppy Shepherd, have written the following report:
Qualification and Logistics
The Championships were held at Addington Manor Equestrian Centre, Buckinghamshire from 16th – 20th October 2019. In order to qualify for the competition schools had to have been one of the top two teams or one of the top 4 individual riders at one of the qualifying competitions held throughout the year; equating to over 1000 ponies and riders attending the final stage. Our quest for qualification started in May when Poppy and Daisy Shepherd, Charlie Lindley, Izzy Rowley, along with Emma Forsyth, secured individual placings in dressage and show-jumping.
Subsequent teams and individual riders were still gaining qualification right up to three weeks before The Championships, which led to the final planning and organisation of taking 11 riders and 12 ponies just short of 200 miles, quite challenging. Entering the teams, booking stables, arranging accommodation, as well as ensuring the ponies and riders are all mentally and physically fit are all crucial pre-competition preparations.
Wednesday - Day 1
This is all about getting the horses and riders there safely, settling in and course walking. Once this is done the riders, parents and team managers sit down and have a team meal in the back of a wagon and discuss the forthcoming days and tactics.
Thursday - Day 2
This was one of our major days in terms of classes; two of our teams were straight into competition. The 80/85cm team, consisting of Charlie Lindley, Daisy Shepherd, Martha Lee and Noah Marsh, all executed beautiful clear rounds over a technical course. Normally this would have been enough to put us through to the jump off but the competition was strong and it all went down to times; we eventually finished 15th out of 45 teams – a very respectable result.
Later the same morning, the 70/75cm Jumping with Style took place. This is an event which Pocklington, historically, have never excelled at due to not fully knowing what the judges are looking for regarding the style marks; research, however, paid dividends on this occasion. The four riders of Charlie, Martha, Emily Jones and Noah all rode lovely rounds over a combination of show jumps and cross-country fences. Despite showcasing the best from their ponies, we had no idea how we were doing within the competition as the style marks are not announced until the final rider has ridden. Although we felt the team might be placed, we did not think we would actually win! You can imagine our amazement, astonishment and shrieks of delight when we were announced as 2019 National Champions. Charlie Lindley was also placed 4th individually; a great achievement which unfortunately, at the time, was not given the credit it should have been due to the incredible win. Taking their place on the 1st podium adorned with prizes was a wonderful moment for the Pocklington Team and a memory that will stay with us for many years to come.
Friday - Day 3
This marked the final team show jumping rounds as well as the start of the dressage. We had qualified two 70/75cm teams so we had great hopes! Our first team in the arena ended on a fantastic team score of 0 faults, again much depended on time. Despite Daisy, who was also competing as an individual rider within this team, executing some phenomenal turns, the team finished 11th out of over 35 teams. A good team result, just short of the rosettes; Daisy also stayed on the leader board up until the final few riders.
The second team to take up the challenge was Lucinda O’Gram (only just old enough to compete at championship level), Martha Lee and Julian Brittenden. All riders tackled the course with experience beyond their years and rode exceptionally. Martha jumped yet another solid round, Lucinda, executed some fantastic turns but unfortunately had an early dismount at the penultimate fence and Julian, on the biggest and youngest horse within the team, rode with determination and was unlucky to have several poles down.
In complete contrast to the electric atmosphere from the show jumping arenas, where supporters cheer and applaud from the sidelines and music is played through loudspeakers along with judges’ commentary, the dressage rings are almost silent with only hushed whispers from the audience.
In the warm up classes Charlie’s pony performed a beautiful energetic test despite having done 3 rounds of jumping gaining 3rd place whereas Poppy’s mount (Miss Bracken’s horse) who clearly was still shattered (in his opinion) from the long journey down and was lethargic to say the least – hopefully a nights rest would re-energise him for the main competition the next day.
Saturday - Day 4
Individual dressage tests for Poppy, Charlie and Izzy Rowley. Izzy rode at both Elementary and Medium level and after two beautiful tests gained a much deserved 3rd place in the medium. Sat Nav error from the team captain, Poppy, meant no individual placings for this combination despite a high score.
Emma Forsyth had a busy afternoon for her first day at the competition with warm-up classes in both show jumping and dressage and in the evening she had the 1.1m show jumping. It would be true to say that we were all quite nervous, the fences from the ground looked imposing and huge, however we shouldn’t have worried. After a sticky moment at the first fence they tackled the course with grit and determination finally finishing on a commendable 8 faults, both rider and mother were relieved and ecstatic!
Sunday – Day 5
The final day was team dressage, still a relatively new discipline for Pocklington and one which we are becoming increasingly more interested in as it benefits both horse and rider. Georgia Byass joined Poppy, Charlie and Emma to make up the team. Poppy and Emma were the first to go in the Preliminary class; both performed a pleasing test. Later that day Charlie rode her final test and Georgia conducted her debut performance at a Championship in dressage; both tests were graceful and without fault.
After 5 days of non-stop action it is perhaps time to reflect. The 2019 National Championship was undoubtedly the most rewarding and successful to date but it was, none the less, the most challenging and eventful. Visits to A&E, vehicle breakdowns and recoveries all added to the experience.
I would like to thank the parents, staff and the school who tirelessly support the team and who enable us to attend so many competitions. It is one of the few sports where ages and sexes compete on a level playing field and this all goes towards creating quite a special team spirit and camararderie.
Every team member should be incredibly proud of their performances – bring on 2020!
To view a Flickr album from this event, please click here.