Louise Kaiholm drives to victory in the advanced pony pairs
The defending four-horse driver clings to the title, Phillipa Howe is compensated for Europeans disappointment and a former trotter shines
ONE of the closest overnight leaderboards in recent memory meant a tense conclusion for the horse fours, but Wilf BowmanRipley retained his title with some precision cones driving.
Tough ground conditions on the marathon had caused some expensive glitches for Wilf, allowing the other competitors to close in dramatically on his dressage lead, leaving just 0.63 of a penalty separating the top three drivers going into the final day.
Lying in third, marathon winner George Bowman IV’s chance of the title slipped away when he added four cones and
8.11 time-penalties to his score, dropping him down a place below Pippa Bassett.
In with his closest shot at the title to date, last year’s reserve champion Dan Naprous also had an expensive round, adding four cones but completing inside the time with his Lipizzaner team.
Usually reliable in this phase, Wilf didn’t disappoint, and was unlucky to tip just the one ball in an otherwise immaculate round to clinch victory by 9.29 penalties.
“We’ve seen a lot of technical cones courses that have ended up having more weight than the marathon, but this one was a nice and flowing course and I was surprised there weren’t more double clears,” said Wilf.
Intermittent heavy thunderstorms had posed a challenge for drivers throughout the weekend, having an impact on both the dressage and the marathon.
“I did my worst test all year. The first half was fine but then the rain started coming sideways,
someone put an umbrella up and the horses shot to the middle of the arena. Fortunately, the rain was so bad I don’t think the judges could see!” said Wilf, who also notched up 10 penalties in the fourth marathon obstacle when he had to put a groom down.
“We weren’t attacking the hazards because of the ground, the leaders started backing off and that meant a lack of steering,” he said. “I went to do a turn and the wheelers ran up the leaders and lifted the pole. As it came back down we got a trace over the post and were stuck for a bit.”
SOX PULLS UP TO WIN
PHILLIPA HOWE might have had to forgo her place at the world pony championships in Germany when Britain was able to send only individuals, rather than a team, but she was compensated with a victory in the advanced single pony, clocking the fastest marathon of the competition.
“I was hungry coming here and in a good frame of mind as I had nothing to lose,” said Phillipa, who returned to the sport two years ago after a break. “It was a shame to not be on a team with mum [Sara Howe], but we’ll carry on and try again in two years.”
Phillipa’s 13-year-old Welsh section C Sox was owned by her grandmother Leonie Marshall until Thursday, when Phillipa bought him for £1.
“He was never meant to be an advanced pony, I originally borrowed him only to get [my] three-star FEI qualification,” she said. “He’s small, at 13hh, but so compact and strong. Because he is so well balanced and correct I don’t need to be thinking about him, he looks after himself.”
The Bradbourne stables aced these championships, with Phillipa’s mother Sara heading the pony fours and
Sarah McLaughlin, who usually backsteps for her, winning the novice pony.
“We’ve also had our vet Anna White grooming and Phillipa’s partner Dan Foley has been shoeing here,” said Sara.
It was a seventh victory in nine years for the Kent driver, who had been in two minds about contesting the nationals after Minden.
“I was swayed because of Sarah [McLaughlin] and Phillipa competing. If I’d only have come to watch I’d have been a nightmare,” said Sara, who now runs her original team of chestnut Welsh section As mixed in with grey ponies formerly owned by Tim Bradford.
Danish driver Louise Kaiholm became the first person to take the open pony pairs and then the advanced section in consecutive years as she drove her Dartmoor hill ponies to a 14.6-penalty win in the latter.
Louise began driving in Denmark before coming over to the UK to learn English and she has been based at the Chariots of Fire Equestrian Centre in Lockerbie ever since.
“They've taken really well to the challenge this year,” she said of her Dartmoor team. “I thought they might struggle with the collection and extension in the advanced dressage test but they’ve coped well.”
BORN PAINTED MAKES HIS MARK
JOHN RIPLEY got his campaign for next year’s world singles championships off to a secure start as he headed the advanced single horse, which was also the opening selection event.
It was a second consecutive title in this class for John and the classy 11-year-old Born Painted, who is by the Dutch dressage
stallion Painted Black. They finished ahead of Frank Campbell, with wins in the dressage and cones and a marathon third.
“We had a couple of dressage mistakes which cost us three or four marks, so I didn’t get my 45-penalty target which is where we need to be to be up with the top drivers internationally,” said John. “The marathon conditions weren’t ideal for my type of horse who likes good going — the obstacles were tight and it was heavy, which takes a lot out of them.”
In only their second season contesting nationals, Stephen Williams and his Lipizzaners marked themselves as ones to watch when they topped an experienced field in the open horse pairs.
“A friend of mine is Hungarian and he introduced me to driving three years ago,” said Stephen, who was also Fenix driver of the year in his category after three national wins this season.
“We’ve always been horsey — my daughter Jade who is grooming for me here showjumps — but the driving is new. We’re not polished yet but it’s all started to click into place.”
David Whitfield also crowned an exceptional season when he laid down a blistering marathon to head the open horse with Shamrock Sam.
“We’re lucky to have a small horse with a big engine. Normally we can let him go but in these conditions you had to hold back and drive with your brain,” said David. “Even being careful we hit a tree root in number seven and slid out. The carriage came up in the air and I was bounced right onto the edge of the seat.”
The nine-year-old trotter, who was bought for £400, has stepped up to the level well, winning every qualifier and the open championship indoors before also heading every outdoor event he contested.
“The trotters are normally just used for the marathon as most don’t take to this game. He had to learn to canter this year [for the open dressage test] — he’s a square-gaited trotter and to get one of those to canter is very difficult,” David added.
After giving up and selling off his pony team, Gary Power “got his mojo back” when he returned this season with a pony pair and went on to take the open title.
Combining his former team leader Chevet Taffy Spencer with new recruit Brenig Simon — both Welsh section Ds — he headed the dressage and marathon with enough of an advantage to forgive an 18.31-penalty cones.
“Bren was only broken to drive
at Christmas and has done just the three shows, so they are still very inexperienced as a pair and not quite good enough for the cones yet,” said Gary. “They need to learn to take you forward a bit more but they did three solid phases and
I’m really pleased with them.”
Nicola Blandin was also thrilled to take a win, with triumph in the open single pony with the 16-year-old German riding pony Baboo. The “quite difficult” mare came from France after being driven in a pair but proved too much for her owner.
“I got her from a friend as she can be a bit of a hot-head,” said Nicola. “At the beginning of the year we weren’t sure she’d even compete as she was having physio and needed quite a bit of TLC.
“She’s had to learn to do the job, to balance herself and take sole responsibility for the carriage,” she added.
The advanced horse pairs went to David Matthews, who looked on form for the upcoming world pairs championships in Lipica with wins in the first two phases.
British Carriagedriving National Championships, Cirencester Park, Glos Wilf Bowman-Ripley clinches the horse fours title in challenging conditions
Phillipa Howe and Sox take the advanced single pony