Talented riders from across the UK descended on Warwickshire College, Moreton Morrell, on Tuesday 15 April for the finals of The British Horse Society National Riding Schools’ Championship.
This unique competition, where no competitor owns their own horse, is run by The British Horse Society (BHS) to encourage non-horse owners to ride and compete. The Championship comprises a dressage test, showjumping course and a set of equine-related general knowledge questions and is enjoyed by riders of all ages, from nine to 60 plus.
The 12 years and under final was won by 12-year-old Molly Parsons from Salisbury, Wiltshire. Molly has been riding at Grovely Riding Centre since she was six years of age and was delighted to be representing the centre at the Championships.
Gerry Dunne who owns Grovely Riding Centre said: “This was Molly’s first time at the Championship so she was very excited, but also very nervous. This competition is such a fantastic opportunity for riders. One of our pupils, Mirabel Green, won this competition a few years ago and she is now going to start working for us in September. She has just passed her BHS Stage One exam with distinction and it all started here at these championships.”
In the 13-17 Years Championship there was a case of déjà vu as the appropriately named Rebecca Champion won this category for the second year running. Rebecca, from Pickering in Yorkshire, rides at Friars Hill Riding Stables in Sinnington under the instruction of proprietor Alison Brown.
“I did feel under a bit of pressure having won last year but I didn’t think I was going to come and win this time,” she said. “I had ridden Blaze [the horse she rode last year] for quite a long time before the last competition but I hadn’t ridden Grey as much. It’s really nice to win.”
Alice Watson from Leicester took the honours in the 18 Years and Over Champion. Alice rides at Witham Villa Riding Centre under the instruction of the centre’s proprietor Verity Saul.
“I was the winning instructor in the very first year of this competition, so it’s really nice to have the winner again now. Our pupils love having the chance to compete at a venue like this and to feel the occasion,” she said.
“Alice learnt to ride with us. She’s come all the way through with us and is now at University studying to be a vet. She comes back to us all the time for lessons and it’s lovely to have seen her from the beginning through to where she is now.”
For the first time this year a Dressage competition has been introduced, enabling those who do not want to showjump to compete at a National Championship.
The first 17 Years and Under Dressage Champion was 16-year-old Helen Mann from Woodbridge. Helen rides at Newton Hall Equitation Centre in Suffolk under the instruction of the centre’s proprietor, Rossie Theobald. “I’m really pleased,” said Helen. “I haven’t been to the Championships before so I am quite proud to have won.”
The 18 Years and Over Dressage Champion was Jess Thurlow, another rider from Friars Hill Riding Stables in North Yorkshire. “It feels great to win,” she said. “I love doing dressage. I compete quite a lot at the stables and it’s nice to have a good outcome on a day like today, I’ve really enjoyed it.”
A team competition was also introduced this year, where the highest three scores from one centre are added to provide an overall team score. The inaugural winners of this competition were the team from Arundel Riding Centre in West Sussex.
Full results are available on the BHS website, www.bhs.org.uk.
Lessons are available at all the winning establishments. Contact details are as follows:
• Grovely Riding Centre, 01722 742288 or www.grovely.info
• Witham Villa Riding Centre, 01455 282694 or www.withamvilla.co.uk
• Newton Hall Equitation Centre, 01473 785616 or www.nhec.co.uk
• Friars Hill Riding Stables, 01751 432758 or www.friarshillstables.co.uk
• Arundel Farm Riding and Driving Centre, 01903 882061 or www.arundelridingcentre.co.uk
The British Horse Society Approval Scheme offers quality assured horse riding and trekking centres across the UK, Ireland and worldwide. BHS Approved Centres have horse and pony welfare, along with client safety and satisfaction, as priorities.
Photos Alice with proprietor Verity Saul, and Jess Thurlow with her mum, Sandra Thurlow. Sandra finished fifth behind Jess in the 18 years and over Dressage.