Yesterday saw the crowning of three National Champions at both Brand Hall and Houghton Hall International Horse Trials. Brand Hall in Shropshire hosted both the Charles Owen National Pony Championships and the Racesafe National Junior Championships whilst in East Anglia, at Houghton Hall in Norfolk, the Askham Bryan College National u21 Championships were taking place.
Last year’s Championship combination 15 year old Thomas Tulloch and Jancis Tulloch’s Spirit VI returned to their local event at Brand, determined to keep their title for a second year which they did in style on a score of 47.6. Runner up to Thomas was 16 year old Isabel White from Nottinghamshire with her own Daydream Fourteen on 48.2. Third place went to 15 year old Somerset rider, Phoebe Locke with her own Quay finishing on a score of 50.5. Thomas Tulloch was also in the top ten in fifth place with Charlotte Faulkner’s pony Access Bill.
Thomas said: "Coming into this I thought it would be someone else's day. I really did not expect it."
Commenting on his ride: "He is a jumping machine, and yesterday he pinged everything and ate up the ground - he really jumped his socks off! This is my last year competing in Pony trials so I'm looking forward to Juniors now and hopefully the Europeans.”
Thomas has been fitting in his competition preparation around his school work: "I've got an exam every day for the next five days now (GCSE) and had the odd five minutes revision here and there whilst preparing for this."
Yasmin Ingham and Imperial Cavalier owned by Edwin and Sue David with Janette Chin took this year’s title on an incredible score of 41.1. The new Junior Champions took the lead after 18 year old Alex Tordoff from Leicestershire and his ride Emil who had lead from the dressage phase, sadly rolled the last pole to drop one place to finish on 44.7. Third place went to 17 year old Charlotte Dennis from Yorkshire and her own DHI Hot Chip; the pair finished the competition on a score of 44.8.
Yasmin who is now 18 and a former Pony European gold medal winner said: “I am absolutely over the moon - he was so good to me over that last fence. He absolutely flew round the cross country and we were inside the time by 20 seconds.
Commenting on riding a horse which was previously campaigned by eventing icon Mary King, Cheshire-based Yasmin said: "I do feel the pressure riding him but Mary always checks in and wishes me well. We are looking ahead to the Europeans now; obviously I was thinking about Junior Team selections coming into this."
Whilst the Pony and Junior competitions were playing out in Shropshire, a highly competitive field of young riders were battling for this year’s CCIYR 2*section at Houghton.
Sophie How became the new u21 Champion, having led from the front on the nine-year-old Bojangles HRS, a ride she took over from her brother Tom several years ago. The pair took the title on a score of 40.3, having added just 0.8 cross country time to their impressive dressage score.
The 20-year-old from near Market Harborough commented on her ride: “Bojangles really deserved this win; he's so nearly been there so many times and then the odd blip has ruined things,” said Sophie. Sophie rides full time from her base at home as well as spending several mornings a week with JP Sheffield of whom she said: “I wouldn’t be here today with this title without JP, he is everything you wish for from a trainer.”
Last year's Champions, 20 year old Will Furlong from East Sussex and his own Livingstone II, had to settle for the runner up spot this year. The pair finished on their dressage score of 47.2, one of only two young rider combinations to do so, they had climbed up the leader board from eighth after the first phase. 18 year old Sam Ecroyd from Flintshire claimed the final podium placing riding his own Wodan III.
All three newly crowned National Champions received gifts and rugs in kind from their section title sponsors as well as from the Worshipful Company of Saddlers. New for the Championships this year was the presentation of new British Eventing cut glass bowls which riders all will keep as a memento of their National Championship achievement.
The new Chief Executive of BE David Holmes presented the two Champions with their prizes at Brand Hall whilst BE Chairman of the Board, Paul Hodgson presented Sophie How with her winnings at Houghton.
Sophie How’s win at Houghton also earned her a year's loan of a Suzuki ATV quad bike.