Winners Crowned and Cross-Country Action Spans Saturday at Osberton 

Osberton International Horse Trials

It’s been a jam-packed day of competition at the BEDE Events Osberton International Horse Trials, with wall-to-wall cross-country action on the roster alongside the continuation of the Bennington Carriages National Carriage Driving competition and the culmination of four of our six hotly contested eventing classes. 

Agria Equine Lifetime CCI1*

Four classes saw their finales unfold on Saturday, and the largest of those was the inaugural Agria Equine Lifetime CCI1*, which had 81 competitors come forward to the final phase. 

Both the showjumping course and the time allowed proved enormously influential, and just eight of those 81 would walk away with clear score sheets in this final phase. Two-phase leaders Simon Grieve and Make Believe weren’t among them: their single rail and 0.8 time penalties meant they had to settle for a very respectable second place, opening the door for Amy Simpson and her own Hero RHF to take the win after adding just a single second to their first-phase score of 27. 

“It’s been a bit of a weird one this season, but I’m so pleased to have finished it well,”

said Amy, who made her step up to FEI competition for the first time this year.

“In dressage he was really good – nice and relaxed, which is what we’ve been aiming for. Cross-country has been probably our weakest phase, but he absolutely flew around the course, and then he jumped his socks off today. It’s taken a bit of time to get used to him, but we’re getting there now! It takes a lot of work to get this far, but it’s so worth it when you come out with a result like this.”

Project Pony CCIP2*-S

After taking the lead with a clear inside the time over yesterday’s tough cross-country challenge, 14-year-old Annabel Ridgway was faced with the intimidating prospect of showjumping last in the Project Pony CCIP2*-S – but even though this is her first-ever FEI competition, she kept a cool head that belied her young age to pilot Akim de d’Arquerie to a fault-free round, securing her the win and making her one of just two riders to finish on her dressage score. 

“I was so nervous, my tummy was turning! It’s my first Pony Trial, and I just wanted to get around – let alone win it. I’m just thrilled to have got such an amazing pony to help me reach my dreams,”

said Annabel, who is one of the lucky young riders to benefit from the support of title sponsors Project Pony, who are committed to providing talented juniors with competitive ponies to allow them to progress. 

“It’s been absolutely incredible – I don’t know where I’d be without Project Pony’s support and their help and the training I needed to get to where I am today.”

Telstar Trophy Novice & Foljambe Bowl Intermediate Restricted Three-Day

For the first time, the Telstar Trophy and Foljambe Bowl were awarded at Osberton, to the winners of the Restricted Novice Three-Day and the Restricted Intermediate Three-Day, respectively. 

The Telstar Trophy Novice has had a new leader at the culmination of every phase, and it was Cambridgeshire’s Sophie Roach and her own Volatis Taranis who took over the top spot, delivering a faultless showjumping round to finish on their dressage score of 36.3 – the only pair in the class to add nothing to their first-phase score. 

This is a particularly exciting culmination to the 2023 season for Sophie, who only stepped up to Novice for the first time this year and has overcome no shortage of odds in pursuit of her first-ever British Eventing victory. 

“I used to literally cry every time I did a 90,”

admitted Sophie.

“And not long ago, my horse did both hind suspensories, and the vet said he’d never jump again – so to be here, with the help of all my team and Anthony Clark, has been amazing. To go clear inside the time and clear again today was incredible. I’m so grateful that my horse has pulled through and grown up to do this for me. It’s a moment I’ve been dreaming of for ages.”

Megan Brown’s victory in the Foljambe Bowl Restricted Intermediate Three-Day with Don Stefano might have been something of a sure thing, as withdrawals in the class meant that the pair were the only competitors to leave the start box on Friday, and the only pair to showjump on Saturday. But despite that, the Wiltshire rider still made sure to deliver a showcase performance, adding neither time nor jumping penalties to her 34.1 dressage score and tipping just one rail en route to accepting top honours. 

“It was hard to go into cross-country with the mindset that you’re the only one left, but the course was so big and so tough that I had to go out there and give it my all,”

said Megan, who has been partnered with her 15.2hh ex-racehorse for twelve years.

“I’m just so proud of him – showjumping’s not been our strongest phase, so to come out with just the one rail makes me feel like he’s earned it.”

It’s a major win that feels as though it’s been a long time coming for Megan and Don Stefano: they led after both the dressage and showjumping in the RoR/NTF Retrained Racehorse Event Championship at the Festival of British Eventing in August, but missed out on their chance to ride through to the win when the cross-country phase was abandoned due to inclement weather. 

“My trainer, Stephen Way, said to me before I went in the ring, ‘this is your Gatcombe moment’,” “It’s brilliant to finally get our win.”

said Megan.

Arena Saddles CCI2*-L

Well over 100 starters were marginally narrowed down to a field of 97 in the Arena Saddles CCI2*-L, which undertook its cross-country phase on Saturday afternoon in distinctly mixed weather conditions. The organising team’s fastidious groundwork proved well worthwhile, though, and even those horses in the latter stages of the day’s competition were given ample chance to learn and grow over Stuart Buntine’s track. 

One of those late starters was first-phase leader Oliver Townend, making his international debut with new ride Coolafancy. Despite the eight-year-old gelding’s relative inexperience, he cruised across the finish line three seconds inside the time to retain his lead on 23.9, just 0.4 penalties ahead of second-placed Max Warburton and Morningstar van Altrido. 

“It’s just my third competition with him, but we like him a lot,”

said Oliver of the gelding, who he’s riding for longtime friend and groom Jess McKie.

“Jess is off injured, and she asked me if I’d step in for her and see what I thought of him. I’m very happy with his form – she’s done a beautiful job of producing him, and I’m just hopefully pushing the buttons! I think he’s very genuine and he’s got all the attributes of a very good horse, but he’s also never been this distance before, so that will have been a shock for him, and he’s never seen banners and people. He’ll definitely have come on for the run – he felt babyish, but everything I asked him to do, he did.”

Investec CCI3*-L

First-phase leaders Emily King and Jackpot remain on their dressage score of 25 after delivering a foot-perfect cross-country round, which saw them cross the finish line bang on the optimum time of eight minutes. 

“He was pretty keen, actually – he was on a real little mission at the start, and I knew the time was tight, as he’s not got much Thoroughbred blood, so I wanted to make sure I was up on my minute markers. That meant I left setting up for the fences as late as possible, but because he was strong, I sometimes had to revert back to giving him a bit more time to set up,”

explained Emily.

“But he was super, and so straight everywhere, which meant we finished smack-bang on the optimum time. It turned out to be really influential out there, and as I was riding later on in the class, it meant I had a lot of time to overthink everything and go out and watch and make sure I was really on it with my plan. There were plenty of places where you really had to be decisive – there was no right or wrong answer, but you had to make a decision for your horse. It was a very educational track for them – and for us as riders.”

Stuart Buntine’s cross-country track proved a significant test of the level, with a clear rate of just 58% – fitting, then, for an end-of-season goal event for competitors and horses alike, with major questions well scattered across the course. 

Those who made effective, adaptable plans were well rewarded, though, with nine clears inside the time across the 81 starters. These included Kitty King and Cristal Fontaine, who remain in second place just a hair’s breadth behind the leaders on a 25.2, and third-placed Tiana Coudray and Coeur de l’Esprit Z of the USA, who will head into Sunday’s showjumping finale on a 26.2. 

Sunday’s eventing competition at Osberton will begin with the final horse inspections for both the CCI3*-L and CCI2*-L, which will get underway from 8.00 a.m. and 9.00 a.m., respectively. Then, it’s onto the nail-biting conclusion in the main arena, where the CCI3*-L competitors will showjump from 9.30 a.m., followed by the CCI2*-L line-up from 12.50 p.m. 

In the Bennington Carriages National Carriage Driving event, Saturday was all about the nuance and fine handling of the cones competition, which saw some of British driving’s biggest stars and team stalwarts do battle in this showdown of speed and accuracy across thirteen different divisions. 

Two drivers managed an elusive perfect score, adding neither time penalties nor knocked cone penalties to their score sheet: they were 13-year-old Ruby Gray, and her 2023 National Novice Pony Champion Fiddler, who bested the Open Single Pony class, and Charlie Parker King, who topped the Novice Pony class.

Sunday’s carriage driving finale takes us into the fast-paced and furious marathon phase, which will take place from 10.30 a.m. across the Osberton Estate over much of the same ground covered by the cross-country courses. 

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