No horse? No problem!

13th April 2012

Talented riders from across the UK descended on Warwickshire College on Wednesday 11 April for the final of the BHS National Equitation Competition, a unique championship where no competitor owns their own horse.

The Equitation Competition is run by The British Horse Society to encourage non-horse owners to ride and compete. Regional qualifiers are held at BHS Approved Riding Centres across the UK with the winners progressing forward to contest the national final.

The Championship, which comprises a dressage test, showjumping course and a set of equine related general knowledge questions has been available to young riders for a number of years, with many past winners going on to enjoy horse ownership or a career with horses. However, this year, for the first time, the competition was also opened up to adults, a decision which has been well received.

The first 18 years and over BHS Equitation Champion was Phoebe North from Talland School of Equitation in Gloucestershire. The result was a late birthday present for Phoebe who had celebrated her 23rd birthday the previous day. “I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said. “I’m pleased that there’s an adult section because there are plenty of adults who haven’t done competitions before.”

Hilary Hughes, Phoebe’s coach from Talland, said: “I think it’s a tremendous competition and more riding schools ought to get involved because I think it’s super for the children and one of the best places for anyone to start competing.

“Lots of people come to us because we’re a training yard, especially those looking to take BHS exams. If they haven’t been to a competition, getting a horse ready for a Championship like today allows them to gain valuable experience at competition level. This is the first little goal and if they get a taste for it now they’re going to want to work hard to achieve more.”

The 13 years and under final was won by 13-year-old Mirabel Green who rides at Grovely Riding Centre in Wiltshire. Mirabel began riding at the age of four and is passionate about every aspect of the sport, including helping to care for the horses. “It’s just so nice to be around them,” she says.

Gerry Dunne, proprietor at Grovely Riding Centre is delighted that Mirabel’s dedication has paid off. “I’m so pleased for Mirabelle because I can’t tell you how hard she works helping in the yard with the ponies,” said Gerry. “She is 100 percent committed and a top girl.”

In the 17 years and under Championship, the winner was Megan Fletcher from Arundel Farm Riding and Driving Centre in West Sussex. The 16-year-old, who has been riding at Arundel Farm for nine years, was surprised by her success. “I’m really shocked to have won but extremely happy! I’ve absolutely loved the competition; it’s been so much fun.”

Alison Leggett the proprietor at Arundel Farm was thrilled with Megan’s success. “It’s quite a big thing for our competitors here today because other than doing small competitions that we put on at our stables they’re not used to going to shows and competitions. Unless they’ve got their own ponies they can’t get out there and do it, so this is a great opportunity.”