This year, five riders from the Cambridgeshire College Group travelled to Hartpury for the RDA National Championships, along with two horses (Jacko and Rolo) and a small army of helpers.
First to ride was Rebecca Lawes, who rode Jacko in the Countryside Challenge. Rebecca rode very carefully and positively, and although Jacko was disappointed to find that the floral arrangements he tasted were only plastic, he went really well for her. Next was Anne Hunt in the Countryside Challenge, also riding Jacko. With Kathryn leading, Anne confidently steered Jacko around all the obstacles very neatly. After this, both Anne and Rebecca also performed a dressage test each on Jacko, as part of the Combined Training competition. Although Jacko was a bit tired by Rebecca’s test, both rode their tests with great accuracy and looked fantastic in the ring!
At the end of the day we were thrilled to find that Rebecca had come 6th in the Countryside Challenge with a super score of 73.5 and had a beautiful rosette to show for it. She also came third in the walk-only dressage test. In the walk and trot test, Anne came in fourth, and ninth in a large class in the Countryside Challenge.
We also had one dressage rider competing on the Saturday: Eleanor Currington, who was riding Rolo in the Grade II Championship Test having qualified at Oaklands in first place. Rolo was feeling quite fresh and keen and can be very strong but Eleanor had him well under control! Together, they had a really pleasing rhythm throughout their test and looked quite at home in the arena. The Grade II class was enormous, and Eleanor rode very well to come 13th.
On the Sunday, my test was the first of the day! I was riding Rolo in the Grades I-V Walk, Trot and Canter Championship Test. Despite the early start, Gillian, Kathryn and Sarah had groomed Rolo to perfection and he was clearly loving the attention. We had a positive warm-up and then were complemented by the judge on our appearance as we walked around the arena! The test went quite well; we broke canter early at one point but other than that I was pretty pleased with how it went.
Next to ride was Olivia Cornick on Jacko in the Grade III Championship Test. Olivia and Jacko had achieved a very impressive 83% in the tack and turnout competition and they truly did look immaculate (well done Heather!). Their dressage test was also stunning. Olivia kept Jacko’s concentration throughout and really rode to show off the best of what he can do. They were rewarded with a 6th place rosette – a hard-earned and much-deserved achievement. We are really proud of the pair of them for doing so well in such a competitive class.
Meanwhile the scores were coming in for my Championship test. I ended up 7th, which is probably the most annoying position to be in! However, I was still pleased with how well Rolo had concentrated and listened to me. I also had another test to prepare for which kept me occupied – the Grades I-V Freestyle (walk, trot, canter). After briefing the poor chap responsible for playing the music several times, I went to meet Rolo, who despite having a touch of the runs was looking gorgeous again! Then Gillian and I made our way down to the indoor arenas where the dressage to music tests were taking place. Rolo had a bit of a scare on the way in but settled down quickly, then decided on the walk around the arena that he didn’t like the corner at M. Fortunately this didn’t show too much in our test – at one point, he went to walk instead of canter at M but once he was past the scary bit he went into canter nicely. I tried really hard to remember all the things that Gillian had been telling me in the weeks beforehand and although I’m sure I forgot some of them I hope I didn’t disgrace myself! I was pleased with how the test went and was very proud of Rolo. Eventually the results came in: I was listed as joint fourth, and I couldn’t have been happier. I immediately texted the crew who were already driving back to Cambridge with Rolo and they seemed pretty happy too!
As riders, we felt that we were very lucky with the weather, which was a comfortable temperature and nice and dry, and we had a really fun weekend. Far more than that, though, we all feel incredibly lucky to be part of such a supportive group – from the volunteers who come along every week to lead and assist, to our parents and the other members of the group (we all support each other), and especially to those who towed the horses down to Hartpury, looked after them (and us) and made them look so stunning, and who came alongside us in these big competitions. As a disabled person, it means a lot to get on a horse at all, and even more so when you’re doing it at such a prestigious event. When the nerves are rattling it’s so reassuring to have knowledgeable, calm and enthusiastic people to trust. We simply wouldn’t have the opportunity to do any of this without all of our fantastic helpers and, of course, our lovely horses. I don’t think I can begin to express how grateful we are for all of the help and support that they give us. Hopefully we made them proud!