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Dublin Horse Show 2019

FROM ZERO TO HERO: BRITISH SHOWJUMPING SCORE TRIUMPHANT WIN IN DUBLIN NATIONS CUP

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Ellie Kelly reporting from the Royal Dublin Show

 

Last week we published a story about the future of British showjumping. This week we want to retract it. The Brits are back on top after decisive win at Dublin on Friday following on from Ben Maher claiming his fifth London Global Champions title.

 

When the going gets tough, the British get going. It was the final leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup at the Royal Dublin Show. Team GB were at the bottom of the Western European table after a disappointing season and the chance of qualifying for the Final seemed long gone. Our British riders showed enormous courage, stoicism. Di Lampard’s team of Ben Maher, Scott Brash, Holly Smith and Emily Moffitt, jumped phenomenally to finish the two round competition on just one time penalty. Some 11 points ahead of Italy in second with Ireland in third on 16 points.

 

The Nations Cup victory propelled the British team from the bottom of their division to seventh place – a result which has booked them a ticket to the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. The significance of this is that it offers another chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in addition to the European Championships in Rotterdam, later this month.

 

This has been a challenging period for British showjumping who despite winning team gold in London 2012 and individual gold in Rio 2016 are still not qualified for Tokyo 2020. They are also reliant on good results to retain their significant Lottery Funding. For the majority of the Nations Cup season Britain have existed at the bottom of the table for the Western European League. The pressure was immense in Dublin, yet they put in a stellar performance and pulled off victory without needing Holly Smith to compete in the second round.

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It must have come as a huge relief to Performance Manager Di Lampard who has been challenged by a lack of choice available to the British team in terms of strong horse-rider combinations, for a number of seasons. She was full of praise for the number of loyal British owners who have put their faith in the British system and made their horses available for these championships.

 

“We’ve ridden the storm this season, we’ve had the downs and the difficulties, but it had to change, some time and with a good team and the right spirit I felt it was going to come right this week”said Di after collecting the coveted Aga Khan Trophy, at a prize-giving ceremony attended by The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins. This was the 27th British win of the prestigious Aga Khan Trophy in the 93 year history of the event.

 

Di herself has been a winning rider of this trophy, during her career as a leading showjumper. “I remember 1996, winning the Aga Khan Cup with Abbervail Dream, the sportsmanship of the crowd was incredible as we went toe to toe with the Irish” she reflected.

Dublin Horse Show 2019

“With the win we secure a place in the Barcelona final and we were determined to carry that out – the Aga Khan trophy was always coming home with us!” As she pointed out, there’s been something of a generational shift going on in British showjumping.

 

“Over the last three years we’ve been producing young riders and a larger squad of riders, and you can’t rush these things. They need the right horses and they need owners to stick with them and that all takes time”she explained. The changing of the guard can indeed be a painful process, but today’s result showed that British showjumping is definitely on an upward curve once again.

 

Rider injury has also plagued the British camp and three of the team members have suffered heavy falls in recent week. This was Holly Smith’s first competition back since breaking her shoulder five weeks ago. Amanda Derbyshire, who has had a successful show at Dublin but was not competing in the Nations Cup. Her other top horse Roulette, was sidelined after a crashing fall of horse and rider at the Hickstead Nations Cup last month which left Amanda in hospital with facial injuries and her horse at Newmarket Equine Hospital where he is recovering well.

 

With this pivotal victory achieved in fine style, Di Lampard is focused on the Longines FEI European Championships later in the month where Maher, Brash and Smith will be joined by Amanda Derbyshire and Laura Renwick on the British Team. “Now we are really confident about going to Rotterdam and winning a medal and our place in Tokyo” she said.

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Mexican Young Guns take Nations Cup glory

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In any sport when the underdog wins, it makes for great entertainment. So when the Mexican team took a decisive victory in the very first leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup in Wellington, Florida the press conference was a joyous affair.

 

The youthful foursome fought off some of the world’s most successful nations including the USA, Canada, and Ireland. In fact, it was the youngest two Mexican riders with the least team experience who sealed the deal with their double clear performances. These came from 23-year-old Eugenio Garza Perez riding Victer Fin DHZ and 24-year-old Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane on the athletic grey mare Hortensia van de Leeuwerk. The other two riders played their part with low-faulted rounds from Fernando Martinez Sommer (29) on Cor Bakkar and Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado (25) riding Tino la Chapelle.

 

Tryon’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 course designer, Ireland’s Alan Wade, set a track that tested rideability, and the final line of a one-stride triple combination to big oxer proved the undoing of many. However with three first-round clears the Mexicans were already in command at the halfway stage on a zero score, trailed by Ireland and USA on eight, Israel close behind with nine, last year’s Wellington winners from Canada on 12 and the three-member Colombian side already trailing the field with 16 on the board.

 

The Mexican quartet kept a cool head and clung on to their lead in the second round, which caught out a number of the world’s leading riders such as World No 2 Mclain Ward and Beezie Madden who both faulted. Fernando Martinnez Sommer commented on the technicality of the course. “The course was difficult enough, for me my horse has a very big stride so I had to go a bit steady all the time.”

 

All four riders were quick to praise their Chef d’Equipe Constant van Paesschen, not just for their Nations Cup victory but what he has delivered to Mexican showjumping during his short career so far. Stany van Paesschen had similar positive words “From when I came two years ago, I said I am going to try as much as I can to push some young riders forward. We have some great young riders but we also have some great support from professional and older riders. I think we have a great team.”

 

Garza Perez, who trains with legendary Irish rider Eddie Macken and is the only member of the Mexican side to be based in the USA, said: “Today’s result is a testament to the quality of the next generation of young Mexican riders.”

 

He was a member of the historic site that posted that spectacular win in Dublin last August. “That day was an inspiration to us all!” he pointed out. And now the main Mexican goal is a place at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final 2019.

 

“There’s an Olympic place on offer in Barcelona and we intend to take it!” He said.

 

Team Israel had a great show too. Daniel Bluman’s double-clear with Ladriano Z bolstering an impressive all-round performance that saw them add nothing to their first-round nine-fault tally for the second spot. The Americans looked strongest at the outset, with an extremely experienced team of Beezie Madden, McLain Ward and Laura Kraut joined by young star Lucy Deslauriers. But single errors proved costly, so they will be hoping to turn the tables when their regional League moves to Mexico next time around. Only Mexico, USA, and Canada were entitled to qualifying points in today’s competition, so they claimed 100, 80 and 60 points respectively.

 

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Derby Victory for Funnell

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We are so excited that Horse Scout Advocate William Funnell, has just claimed his fourth victory in the Al Shira’aa Derby at Hickstead for so many reasons. Not just because he has been a supporter of Horse Scout from the beginning but also because he was riding a British homebred horse. This was the 57th Derby which began in 1961, now sponsored by Al Shira’aa. This year it attracted a strong and very international field of riders but the Brits dominated.

Once again flying the flag for the Billy Stud, William was riding the 10-year-old Billy Buckingham by Billy Congo out of a Clover Hill mare. The impressive 18.2hh gelding was one of two to go clear in the first round of the imposing track. This resulted in a jump-off- almost unheard of in this competition,  against Holly Smith and the equally massive Irish bred Quality Old Joker by OBOS Quality. Holly has produced the 11 year old since a youngster and perhaps surprisingly, the 18 hand chestnut is as good at speed classes as he is at Derby’s and Puissances.

The first to go in the jump-off, Billy Buckingham was clearing the fences with inches to spare. Until the pair fell foul of the water jump and a foot in the splash, meant they finished with four faults in a time of 89.62sec. This gave Holly a bit of breathing space, but she was caught out first by the black gate and then by the water as well, meaning she they had to settle for runner-up.

William is the fifth rider to have four wins in the Hickstead Derby, having previously clocked up a catalogue of victories in 2006, 2008 and 2009 with his legendary long-term partner, Cortaflex Mondriaan. He joins other greats like Harvey Smith, John and Michael Whitaker, and Ireland’s Eddie Macken, who have all had four wins, in what is still perceived as one of the hardest showjumping events to clock a clear round in, let alone win.

William rates Billy Buckingham as the perfect Derby campaigner and believes there will be more wins to come . “As long as I’m fit and the horse is fit you’d like to think you could go on and win it a fifth time. It’s nice to be in the record books with those guys, and to do it this year on a home-bred is special,” he said.

Billy Buckingham was previously ridden by Lucy Townley, the daughter of Hickstead Director Edward Bunn. William took over the ride in 2017 and was the star performer of the British team in the Nations Cup in Denmark last June. Just a few weeks later, the pair finished sixth on their Derby debut having hesitated at the top of the Bank and getting a time fault as well.

“We’ve done a bit of practice to make sure he’d come down the Bank. Last year I wondered if I’d wasted a clear round because they don’t come round here very often, so it’s nice to get another one and win it on a home-bred by Billy Congo.”

William was full of praise for the show at Hickstead, which has always been happy hunting ground for him. “I’d like to congratulate the Bunns on the work they’ve done in the arena, this is the best grass ring in the world with the best footing.”

It was a great event for both British riders but also the girls this year, with Holly in second and Harriet Nuttall in third on another great Irish bred horse,  A Touch Imperious by Touchdown, This super consistent pair who have been together since “Henry” was just five years old, left all the poles up. Alas they were another pair to be caught out by the 15ft Open Water. Harriet shared third place with Shane Breen on the Canturo sired stallion, Can Ya Makan, who had one rail.

James Whitaker ended up in fifth place with one fence down and a time fault on Glenavadra Brilliant, the horse James’ elder brother William Whitaker rode to victory in 2016.

 

Photo from hopedeamer1-14

NIGEL COUPE- The win that made me

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Until last year Nigel Coupe was a name that had not been heard on the international showjumping scene for some time. It was at Hickstead that together with Golvers Hill, a horse bought for showing, Nigel reminded the world of his talents, by winning The Al Shira’aa Derby at Hickstead, one of the most iconic showjumping events. Since then he won Cock of the North and the Horse of the Year Show Grand Prix plus the Leading Rider award. “I’ve had a good spell since the Derby” he says humbly.

 

“Winning the Derby was amazing. I’ve grown up watching it, so to win it was a bit of a dream. It all seems a long time ago now but coming here as defending champion and seeing myself in the Hickstead magazine from last year, brings it all back” he says on the eve of this year’s Hickstead Derby.

 

Nigel is now 47 years old but first entered The Derby 28 years ago. Although he competed at Hickstead as a boy on 12.2hhs, so the historic venue is a special place for him. He took a 10 year break from riding in The Derby until 2015, when he finally had a horse suitable. The Irish bred Golvers Hill (aka Ricky) who Nigel half owns, was bought by his other owner as a four year old and started life as a Working Hunters. “We got to the stage that he couldn’t do both and I always rated the horse as a jumper so we decided to concentrate on the jumping. He’s my best horse now” Nigel says of the 15 year old. Ricky who is by Ricardo Z out of a Clover Hill mare, has been consistent on all his three Derby attempts. Finishing second on his first attempt in 2015 and fifth in 2016 before the big win.

 

So what makes a perfect Derby horse? “They need to be brave and careful. Definitely not spooky and not afraid to take something on. Irish horses are notoriously good at the Derby and I think they often last a bit longer than some of the others” he believes. “In the old days people jumped their best horses in The Derby, now they go for the bigger prize money in the Global Champions Tour. Then again some horses would not suit the small GCT arenas, like at Monte Carlo which is on the same weekend, just as Hickstead suits certain horses more than others.”

 

With an experienced horse like Ricky, Nigel would not do much specific training for The Derby. “I practice more when they are younger and definitely when they do their first Derby. With a more experienced horse, they know what to expect so you don’t need to train so hard. But I do jump through a Dyke a few times and practice some ditches.”

 

Nigel runs a 50 box commercial yard in Prescott, Lancashire. Like most professionals, he has to make a living from training and livery as well as producing and selling horses. “Unfortunately I don’t have 5 Grand Prix horses to win big prize money on and decent horses fetch good money, so it’s a balancing act.”

 

Last year’s Derby success has been life-changing for Nigel, who has been knocking on the door of international stardom for many years. He has made several appearances on Nations Cup Teams and was a mainstay on the British youth teams winning several medals at Junior and Young Rider level.

“Winning the Derby did open up new opportunities and I have had new owners come on board and sponsors approach me. It increases your profile and has definitely brought me more of a following on social media.”

 

And the dream… “I try not to have dreams but in the long-term I want to build up a better string of horses and keep enjoying it. In the short term? I want to win The Derby again tomorrow” he smiles.

Written by Ellie Kelly