AFTER A 5AM START, the York Riding Team arrived at Eccleston Equestrian Centre for their Roses competition against Lancaster on Wednesday 2nd May. University competitions are unique in that, rather than riding their own horses, the team all compete on riding school ponies.
The nature of the sport therefore means that the hosting team has a huge home advantage: because Lancaster train weekly at Eccleston, they already know the horses well. However, York weren’t going to let this (or the rain) dampen their spirits.
Riding for the A team was Alexa Holland (vice-captain), Amy McIntosh, Holly Nye and Ellie Fells (team captain and President), and on the B team was Becca Mitchell, Alice Williams and Elsie Hargate, led by their captain, Dani Sibbald.
The Roses competition is run in accordance with normal BUCS rules. Since BUCS equestrian competitions rely on there being four teams, York’s A and B teams were effectively competing against each other, as well as against the Lancaster A and B teams, which must have felt unnatural having trained so closely with each other this past year.
The competition began with every rider picking a horse out of a hat at random, before then having just seven minutes to get used to this horse before attempting to do a dressage test, with each movement being scored out of ten. The whole point of the competition is to test how well you as a rider are able to adapt to an unfamiliar horse, which doesn’t always go to plan!
The competition began with everyone picking a horse out of a hat at random.
The early signs were promising, though, as all eight York competitors rode lovely tests, which meant that by lunch time York were in the lead. However, there were just 0.5 penalties between York A and Lancaster A, so it was shaping up for a closely-fought finish.
The next phase of the competition was show-jumping, which involved jumping a round of fences (at around 80cm in height), again on a horse picked at random. The aim is to get a clear round, but unlike in other show-jumping competitions, the riders are given style marks for each fence too. Five of York’s riders managed a clear round which was fantastic, but an unfortunate few poles down for others meant that Lancaster were hot on York’s heels.
Unfortunately, the visitors were unable to retain their early lead, with Lancaster’s A team clinching the top spot to take the four points on offer. York’s A team closely followed just seven penalties behind. Lancaster’s B Team also beat York’s B team, bringing two further points to the Red Rose, but the girls all put in a fantastic performance.
However, York did dominate the top individual placings, with Holly Nye coming fifth, Ellie Fells coming second and Amy McIntosh – who has recently recovered from a broken facial bone – coming first, which was a great achievement.
Team captain Ellie Fells said: “not even a broken face can stop Amy, and she completely deserved her wonderful Roses result after all the hard work she has put in to training sessions.”
The day was made even better by some of York’s club members, plus a few riders’ parents (and dogs), coming along to watch – it was lovely to see them in support.