After winning the first ever BSJA International Stairway series in 2009, 2010 had a lot to live up to. To win a series like this was a real achievement for me and my little mare, as it was over testing 1.50 tracks at big county shows around the country. Although we didn’t win a leg of it, Solie’s consistently good placings and double clears gave her enough points to top the leaderboard and win the series.
A bit about me
I’m a 27 year old Showjumper based near Darlington in the Northeast of England. I currently have 7 horses from a 5 month old foal to my 11 year old Grade A superstar mare Soliegette.
I enjoy producing young horses and having Solie from a just-broken 4 year old and now competing with her up to 1.60 level Nationally and Internationally has been an amazingly rewarding experience.
We didn’t pay a lot of money for her, and I like to think that we prove that anyone can get to the top with enough courage, ambition and of course, a little bit of luck. When I first bought Solie I hoped that we would be able to jump 1.30s eventually, and even that seemed like a hard goal, as until I bought her I had only jumped up to 1.20 level myself.
Solie has been absolutely amazing and every year she surprises me more with her amazing ability, courage and heart. She is only small, standing at just 15.2 and a half, but she is super brave, and always wants to do her best. She is my horse of a lifetime, and words can’t express how proud I am of her. She’s taken me from being an unknown rider jumping at local shows at 1.20 level, to someone people have heard of, and who will give the big names a run for their money many a time.
2010 started off a little shaky when we travelled to the Sunshine Tour in Vejer de La Frontera, Southern Spain in February. Unfortunately Solie contracted a virus en route to the show, resulting in her becoming dehydrated and lethargic, and so whilst she did win one class, she did not perform to her usual high-standard.
After this we travelled to the first of the International Stairway series at Devon county show which was a technical and big 1.55 track. Show jumping Team Manager Rob Hoekstra was there watching, so the pressure was on to impress.
Solie answered every question and jumped one of only 2 first round clears. She had an unlucky fence in the jump off, but we finished in 2nd place, which impressed Rob Hoekstra, who called me the next day to tell me that I had been selected to make my first Nations Cup appearance, in Drammen, Norway in June! It was an unbelievable feeling to be selected, as it is something I have wanted to achieve for many years.
We had a slight problem with feet in the water in Norway which spoiled what would have otherwise been very good jumping rounds, but the experience was fantastic, and I am sure that we both learned a lot from it.
Other achievements in 2010 included winning the Grand Prix class at two International shows in Ireland. Having never won an International Grand Prix until now, to win two in a row was unbelievable. We also achieved a win and good placings in other classes at these shows.
We performed consistently throughout the summer season at the county shows, although bad ground at many of these shows unfortunately hindered our performance.
One highlight of 2010, was a new county show for this year, in the North East. We have very few major shows in the North East other than the Great Yorkshire Show, so I was thrilled to hear we were getting another one in the area. Generously funded by Northumberland county council, Burgham Horse Festival hosted a fantastic debut show, with a wide selection of top class riders from all over the UK, including John, Michael and Ellen Whitaker (to name but a few of the Whitakers who attended), Geoff Billington, Tim Stockdale, and many other top-class riders. The standard was exceptionally high, and it made for some very exciting classes to watch.
I was really pleased to win the accumulator class against such a top-class field. Solie is very very good against the clock, being both fast across the ground, quick over the fences, and can turn on a six-pence. Ellen Whitaker jumped a brilliant round to win the Grand prix. I thought it was a fantastic show in a really nice venue, and am pleased to hear that it will be running again next year!
The excitement was not over when the show ended, as when I returned home, I realised that my broodmare Azon B was going into labour, 3 weeks early, and so I was there to see our first foal being born. I will never forget the weekend of Burgham horse show!
We had a quiet end to the summer season, as Solie had some time off due to a minor injury, but I decided to take a young horse, 7 year old Denthe DW (aka Lily) to a show at arena UK to jump the British Novice and Discovery classes. It was a championship show, and Lily is relatively inexperienced as yet so I was thrilled when she did not have a fence down all show and came 3rd and 4th out of 50 qualifiers from an original 150 starters in the first round. She certainly showed plenty of promise for the future.
So far the winter season has been seriously disrupted by heavy snow. For nearly all of December I have not been able to ride in my school, or take the horses out to any shows. I think if this wintry weather is set to continue every year, I may have to set off for the Sunshine Tour 3 months early in future!
My plans for 2011 are to once again attend the Sunshine Tour in Spain in February and March, and compete at some of the county shows around the UK, and of course to go back to Ireland to try and defend my GP titles!
I also plan on breeding another foal from Azon B so I am busy trying to choose which stallion to go for. I will also be taking the young horses out to some local shows, and hopefully trying to produce them, sell them on, and perhaps buy some more young horses.
I am thrilled to be receiving sponsorship from Silvermoor. It is perfect for a show like the sunshine Tour where we need to take 6 weeks supply of haylage with us, as it is a good size, and excellent quality. Solie, who is a notoriously fussy eater, absolutely loves it.