Despite last minute lamenesses making last minute team changes necessary, and the weather being firmly against us for much of the weekend, the Cranleigh Equestrian team once more rose to the challenges of the National Schools Equestrian Association Championships at the start of half term.
With 1200 combinations of riders and horses competing in the various classes over the four days, it was perhaps one of the most competitive Championships we have attended but our riders were undeterred by this from the start. It was wonderful to be back at Addington Equestrian in Buckinghamshire to enjoy their top-class, international facilities.
Day 1 saw our youngest riders take on two huge classes in both the Mini Show Jumping and the Arena Eventing. 30 teams started the first round of show jumping with the top 10 going through to the final jump off in the Indoor International arena later in the day. We started the final in 9th place (therefore going second) but posting a team score of zero from Ete M; Rosie S; Gracie G and Sophia T meant the pressure was on the teams that had to follow us. As is often the case, the pressure grew and we moved from 9th to find ourselves on the podium in the silver medal position: a fabulous start to the weekend amidst great excitement from our youngest riders. This combination, with the addition of Lex N took a top 10 position in the Arena Eventing too, as did our Novice team of Madeleine R; Tabitha L; Gracie and Sophia, both excellent results at national level.
On Saturday our Intermediate Arena Eventing team stood on top of the podium in gold medal position, winning this class by an impressive 8.5 marks. We were the only team to post four clear jumping rounds, in addition to excellent style marks and time from Tara M; Lucy LM; Rory S and Madeleine R. Out of the 54 who had also qualified individually, Rory was a very creditable 9th. Gracie G then stepped to the top of the podium to claim the gold in the Intermediate Combined Training, jumping clear in the show jumping to finish on her dressage score, against competitors generally much older. Unfortunately our team did not complete this competition when one horse knocked itself, although we had led after the dressage phase. Having won the South East Regional Points League for 2023, we contested the final with a team of 8 riders all jumping at different heights: our final team score was zero although our overall time left us in 6th place in the final line-up.
Sunday saw the turn of the Dressage team: unfortunately one of our combinations had to be replaced due to a sore leg, but we still finished in a strong fourth overall with only 2% dividing the top four teams. However, the Novice combined training team, one of those reduced to just a team of three at the last minute, dug deep to take our second national team title of the weekend; Gracie G; Tabitha L and Madeleine R who also finished in fourth place individually. The Open Arena Eventing team posted three good scores against those who had four in their team, to finish in the final line up in sixth place, with Tara M taking individual fifth in a very tight competition. She followed this with a fourth place in the individual Advanced Open Arena Eventing, just missing the podium by 0.5 marks.
Individual Dressage took centre stage on the final day with Madeleine R taking silver in the Prelim before joining Lucy, Tara and Rory for the Open Show Jumping. We finished the first round in pole position on a zero score, finding ourselves at the opposite end of the proceedings to the Minis on the Friday. Jumping last and with only three eligible for the jump off, it was always going to be tough, and the faults put us down the line to sixth. Still an excellent place to finish out of the 24 teams that started the first round.
At the start of the weekend it looked as though luck was going to be against us this year but our riders are nothing if not determined, rising to the challenges, supporting one another through the ups and downs and ultimately proving once more that our equestrian team is amongst the best schools in the country.