Cranleigh School Riders stormed their way to four team titles, two individual National titles, one team silver, one individual silver and four more top eight placings at the NSEA National Championships held over four days at Addington Manor in Buckinghamshire last weekend.
With 250 schools from England, Scotland and Wales competing with 1000 competitors between them, it was an outcome that we certainly had not predicted.
The junior riders set the standard on the first day of competition with a silver medal in the 75 Arena Eventing. They finished on exactly the same score as Pocklington School who took the title, losing out by virtue of a slightly lower overall style mark. This was a great start to the championships, however, for Tara Moore, Bella Walton, Lucy Le Masurier and Rory Smith.
As the days progressed the fences got bigger.
On the Friday the first title was gained with a win for Lila Millard, Issy Hollidge, Annie Vitek and Kristy Vitek in the 1.10 Show Jumping.
Saturday, however, was the day to remember. The Open Arena Eventing team of Phoebe Going, Issy Hollidge, Lila Millard (with Josh Moore having to watch from the side-lines with a lame horse in the stables) won this National title, with a team of just three, an astonishing eight points ahead of their nearest rivals, with Phoebe Going finding herself on the podium for the individual silver. Lila Millard followed this with individual gold in the Advanced Open Arena Eventing. Jess Edwards meanwhile finished 6th in the line-up in the Prelim Dressage Championship, by any standards a great result at a National Championship.
Whilst this was going on, the Intermediate Show Jumping got under way at 8am, with 57 teams contesting the first round. They qualified for the jump-off in sixth place, therefore going third of the eight teams in the final which took place at 8pm in the evening! They applied the pressure of four clear rounds in a good time and the other teams succumbed: a third National title for Phoebe Going, Issy Hollidge, Kristy Vitek and Annie Vitek. Kristy also got into the final jump-off of the 1.10 ponies and landed an eighth place.
Sunday and the final day. Annie Vitek set the standard in the first competition of the day, taking the title in the 1.20 Elite Show Jumping class, competing against riders much older than her. They then posted four fast clears in the first round of the Open Show Jumping to lead going into the final, and thus having to jump as the last team in the final jump-off. Annie, Kristy, Lila and Issy held their nerve, however, beating Dean Close by less than a second to take our fourth National team title.
Not to be missed on this final day was a fifth place for the Dressage team of Jess Edwards, Lila Millard and Darcey-Blaze Marcus, another combination that had to compete as a team of three with Josh being on the side-lines still. They also took sixth place in the Intermediate Arena Eventing, with Tom Smith and Jess Edwards stepping up to join Phoebe and Issy. Again, with over 40 teams starting in these competitions, to get into the top eight line-up was a great achievement.
A noteworthy moment at the end of the final day was Tom Smith being named as the NSEA Volunteer of the Year: when he wasn’t competing, he could be spotted stewarding, picking up poles or running messages from one end of the showground to the other.
He aptly demonstrated what one parent reflected on after the event:
“Equestrian sports really are one of the few team sports where different ages and genders truly compete on an equal and integrated footing, where everybody is supportive and also forgiving when things don’t go to plan, and it was brilliant to see all of this demonstrated so well over the course of a number of days. That equality, and mutual respect, between genders and ages is also a particularly important lesson for teenagers to learn given what they tend to be bombarded with these days.”