A MEMORABLE and winning trip to Blair International Horse Trials by Tiggy’s Trust has achieved its aim of giving young riders an experience of travelling abroad, and the knowledge that will enable them to compete internationally in the future.
Eight under 16 event riders and five games ponies and riders were selected to travel. The main criteria for being selected was that they had never previously travelled abroad to compete. The event riders represented Ireland in the FEI CCI 1* competition and the games ponies competed against Scottish teams in the Pony Club games competition.
After a marathon journey to the Scottish highlands, the weekend was blessed with glorious sunshine. First up and immaculately turned out were the event riders who trotted up on Thursday in the main arena beneath the castle, for Ian Stark and Gary Parsonage, to be greeted by huge cheers from the games riders as each pony was accepted.
The Tiggy’s Trust riders formed two teams to compete against four British teams. The Tiggy’s Trust teams were complemented by a team of four U16 Irish riders who had travelled to Blair under their own steam and two young British friends of Tiggy who chose to ride in the Trust’s yellow colours on the British teams. It was a fantastic weekend, with not only a team win for Ireland against their British rivals but also third place.
Friday was dressage day and the huge crowds started to flood in. Performing in the main arena could have been overwhelming but the Irish riders managed several personal-best results, putting the Irish teams in first, second and third at the end of the day.
Individually, Georgina Pettit on Ballyerk Black Beauty was joint first out of 96 riders, and a further four combinations - Oleanna Cowan on Ballylee Roller, Alex O’Hare on Greylands Diamond Girl, Kitty Cullen on Coppenagh Spring Sparrow and Eliza Kavanagh on Whitetree Sky - were in the top 10.
Win for Games team
On Saturday, the games ponies and riders (Polly Blake, Pippa Blake, Alice Hatton, Alice Everard and Eva O’Shaughnessy) took on their Scottish rivals winning their final in style cheered on by the eventing squad. Their victory gallop with flags flying in front of hundreds of spectators was the stuff of dreams!
Following the excitement of the games competition the crowds moved over to the main arena, where the young event riders took on a full-up and highly technical show jumping track. Clear rounds were few and far between, however the Trust riders kept their cool in the huge atmosphere, with clear rounds from Jack O’Haire on Expat’s Fireworks , Rosie Coad on Blackhall Summer and Alex O’Hare.
The first section of CCI1* cross-country had run on Saturday, so by Sunday it was clear that the track was tough and would be very influential. In the preceding section, 25% of competitors had been eliminated, with an additional 25% having problems. This ratio proved to be the same in the Sunday section but, having walked the course with Becky Cullen, the Tiggy’s Trust riders, undaunted, bucked the trend and all but two came home clear.
These outstanding performances resulted in the Irish Green team (Jack O’Haire, Alex O’Hare, Eva O’Neill, Georgina Petitt) coming home victorious ahead of the England White team in second and the Irish Orange team (Rosie Coad, Connie Cullen, Kitty Cullen, Eliza Kavanagh) in third place on the podium, against a total of seven teams.
Individually, the Tiggy’s Trust underage riders excelled themselves with Georgina Pettit finishing fourth and Kitty Cullen in seventh. Jack O’Haire and Rosie Coad were just outside the placings in 11th and 12th. All the Irish finishers were in the top half of the mainly adult field.
It was sad that the weekend clashed with the home international in Millstreet, so the Trust was thrilled that the British Eventing programme, who also wanted their young riders to benefit from an international experience, supported Millstreet. There was no doubt that the Trust’s aim of giving young riders an international team experience abroad in both disciplines was achieved and that the squad were a credit to Ireland and to Tiggy’s Trust.
The riders, both games and eventing, were complimented both on their team spirit, supportiveness and turn out. In the words of the Team Oakden family from Scotland, “We watched many masters at work, watched many disappointed but already leaving the ring trying to focus on the positive, watched young talent taking sections by storm in many of the event classes but what will stay with us forever was the sight of the cross-country collecting ring at one particular point!”
Tiggy’s Trust had helped fund some Irish pony riders to Blair, and they were all in the CCI1* competition. Each rider wore bright yellow and they warmed up all together with very few other nations making the collecting ring a mass of yellow!
We just stood and watched, remembered what an amazing rider she was and, we had a wee moment. What a fantastic thing to do and what a fantastic sight. Well done the trust, there are no more words needed.