JOSH Williamson hoped to win The Equine Warehouse CCIP2*- S at Millstreet last week but he hardly anticipated that, in so doing with Jane Hancock’s Ardeo Fireman, he would buck the trend as the other eight classes at these international horse trials were won by female competitors.
The 15-year-old Co Westmeath rider (who is currently sitting his Junior cert exams at Clongowes College) and the similarly aged Tinka’s Boy gelding led the 18-runner field from the outset, being one of three combinations to record a sub 30-penalty dressage score.
The ground jury of Britain’s Sue Baxter (C), Ireland’s David Lee (H) and Britain’s Jane Holderness-Roddam (B) had Williamson on 26.1 followed by Alex Connors with Millridge Buachaill Bui (27.7), who were to withdraw after this phase, and Oleana Cowan and Ballylee Roller (29) who dropped out of contention with problems across the country where two combinations were eliminated.
At the request of Jane Kinsella, Horse Sport Ireland’s pony high performance team manager, the competitors in this class show jumped on Sunday, giving all the opportunity to run through the European championships format in a competition environment.
The phase was to prove highly influential with just two riders, both from Co Kildare, leaving all the poles intact. One of these was Claire O’Ryan who, despite being a second over the time, moved up from ninth to finish fifth with Carhu Melody (37.9).
Ahead of O’Ryan in the final standings, Co Meath’s Matthew Love picked up four show jumping penalties with Cloughreagh Charlie (37.9), as did Co Kildare’s Tom Nestor with Tullaree Ruby Tuesday (37.2). An excellent clear within the time saw Ben Connors move up from fourth to second with Cornafest Fred (34.1) on whom he won team bronze and individual silver at last year’s European pony championships in Poland.
The pressure was now on Williamson and he more than proved up to it, keeping the partnership intact when Ardeo Fireman totally ‘missed’ the first fence (picking up four penalties when it could have been a lost worse) and jumping the remainder of the course clear for a three-phase winning total of 30.1.
“I really enjoyed riding around the cross-country course,” said Williamson who is coached by Amanda Goldsbury. “I thought the track was very strong and very technical, especially at the waters; the ground was very good. I don’t know what happened at the first fence in the show jumping – Tinky seemed spooked by something – but thankfully we stayed together and I’m delighted to have recorded my first international win.
“I was also pleased with my other pony, Rockon Pedro, though he had two fences down show jumping to finish ninth (43.9). I went cross-country on him first and while we picked up time penalties (4.4) I think that helped me when it came to Tinky, though Pedro is a great pony himself! As this is my last year in ponies, I’d very much like to be selected for the Europeans. We have one more trial at the Kilguilkey international.”
As ever, Williamson was supported by his mother Janet who, in the past, has referred to Ardeo Fireman as “a very special pony” on whom Josh recorded seven straight wins last summer – three at EI110 level – when taking over the ride from the late Tiggy Hancock.
“Norman and I are so proud of Josh and we hope that he and Tinky have given Jane as much joy as Tinky has given Josh,” said Janet. “We have all been on some journey, one that keeps on giving.”
It wasn’t too surprising to learn that Williamson intends applying for an amateur jockey’s licence as soon as he turns 16 in September and, in the lead up to Millstreet, his was working at home with the family’s five-strong consignment heading to the Land Rover Sale at Goffs.