Yorkshire’s first ever International Dressage event has been judged a success by competitors and officials following Bishop Burton College’s first two star, Junior and Young Rider competitions (CPEDI 2*/Y/J).
The event saw more than thirty competitors from five nations, including Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, Bermuda, Croatia and Great Britain descend on the College’s Equine Centre for three days of top-flight competition.
One of those competitors, fourteen-year-old Michael Murphy also set a record by becoming the youngest ever winner of a senior Para competition in UK – possibly even the world. Michael has extensive experience of National and International competition and was in no doubt that his appearance at the Bishop Burton event would be in the two star competition. “He researched all of the rules himself,” said mum Sue. “He knew without doubt he was old enough to compete at this level and that was what he was going to do.”
Unfortunately, just prior to the competition it was decided Michael’s horse Pebbly Tarragon was not fit to compete and Michael was given the ride on Sophie Christiansen’s Paralympic horse Lambrusco III by the Para Dressage Training Trust; a ride he shared with Grade II rider Alex Sutton who also took first in the YR competition. “I only got the ride on Lambrusco a week ago,” said Michael. “He’s a brilliant horse and it’s a privilege to ride him. I’m really happy with how the tests have gone – it’s a great place to ride and it’s great to go into the arena and know you can do it.” Michael took the Grade Ia 2* competition with an impressive score of 74.49 for Friday and Saturday’s competition, and 70.67 for Sunday’s Ia freestyle test.
Among the other competitors were Paralympic gold and silver medallist Lauren Barwick from Canada, who took first place in the Grade II 2* competition, as well as the Grade II Freestyle with scores of 71.90 and 75.58 respectively on the talented chestnut mare Off To Paris, which is owned by Equine Canada. Lauren is 33 years old and will compete at London 2012 with Off To Paris, having previously made Paralympic appearances at Athens and Beijing where she brought home Individual Silver and Freestyle Gold. Lauren travelled to the UK to compete at the Hartpury 3* and as both Off To Paris and her other mount, Ferdonia 2 are new, the decision was made to include the Bishop Burton event as part of the trip. “I need lots of practise with the mares as we are still forging a bond so we decided to compete at Bishop Burton as it provided another chance to compete with them,” said Lauren. “We are heading for the 2012 Paralympic Games so I need as much practise as we can get. Off To Paris can be a challenging ride and as she is the one I will be taking to London we decided to make the trip to Bishop Burton.”
British Paralympic medallist Simon Laurens was also on hand to help with the competition. Simon has now retired from competitive dressage, but feels it’s vital to give something back to the sport that has given him so much pleasure and success. He said: “I felt that my career had run its course really. I had done everything I needed to do and I felt it was time to let the young, upcoming riders come through. But I do feel it’s essential to give something back. I’ve had a good run out of Para. I’ve met lots of lovely people, made some great friends and I do feel it’s very important to give back. I attend these competitions because I can offer the riders some advice and a bit of support. For example if they’ve had a bad test, they will probably focus on the negatives and feel quite down. I can encourage them to look at what went right, help them feel better and move forward.”
Simon was impressed with the facilities at Bishop Burton College. “I really think the competition has been brilliant,” he said. “Everyone’s been friendly and the facilities are fantastic. I’ve been staying on site and the accommodation is lovely – the riders have had a great time. It’s really nice to come somewhere fresh and new and the surfaces have ridden really well.”
The College’s principal and President of the Competition Jeanette Dawson OBE was delighted to welcome the riders to Bishop Burton. She said: “It’s been great to see such a competitive competition. However one that also contains so much friendship, fellowship and good spirit is an awesome competition. The standard has been superb and for that we must thank not only the riders, but their friends, families and supporters, but also the judges and officials and organisations such as British Dressage, and the FEI, all of whom make a fantastic event like this possible. I hope that each of our competitors take a little bit of East Yorkshire home with them and come back and visit us soon.”