Cranleigh Riders returned from the NSEA Championships held at Addington at the end of half term as National Schools’ Dressage Champions for the second time in three years. Their final score left them a full six points clear of the rest of the field, which included a second Cranleigh team who finished in the top six also, and a further 28 teams from schools up and down the country who had been lucky enough to grab a qualification for this annual championship. It was a genuine team effort, something that was a hallmark of the whole weekend amongst all the Cranleigh riders, with impressive results from the riders in both teams.
Prep School members, Josh Moore and Phoebe Wates proved that riding genuinely is a 7-18 sport at Cranleigh (and has been for many years) with two very noteworthy results in their dressage tests that meant Josh won his arena and Phoebe came fourth in hers. Henrietta Walker-Duncalf finished third in her test and Christi Radkiewicz (16th) put in a very good performance also to make up this winning team. In our second team there were equally good performances from Hattie Allison (2nd); Chantelle Phillips (6th) and Charlie Johnson (11th) to demonstrate the strength in depth of our riders in this most precise of riding disciplines.
The Championships was held over three days for the first time this year and this certainly gave those jumping the bigger classes on the Friday a less hurried approach: it also meant that they were able to introduce a new Advanced 1.10m team class where our riders, Fred Philips, Henrietta Walker-Duncalf and Hattie Allison secured the first team rosette of the weekend by finishing in fourth place. Fred had already ridden a careful round to secure fifth place in the 1.10m Pony Advanced class, the biggest class an individual can qualify for at these championships.
Saturday was then a day of finishing ninth or tenth – just out of the final placings – but fine performances none-the-less in classes that contained the top 32 schools in the country! There were thrills and spills along the way that individual riders will remember – and learn from – which many of them proved on Sunday when they hit the final line-up in all the jumping classes.
First to show their style was the Mini Arena Eventing team of Sam Holllidge, Lily Hibbert, Lila Millard and Josh Moore who finished in seventh place in a very strong field. Sam and Lila then went on to jump in the Novice event along with Issi Rennocks and Ella Pilling, with this team finishing in fifth place in what was the biggest class of the weekend, just ahead of the team of Chantelle Phillips, Sophie Miller, Phoebe Wates and Caileigh Faure who finished in seventh. Having two teams representing us at these championships is noteworthy in itself, to get them both into the final line-up is a real achievement. Sophie, Chantelle and Phoebe had already joined Ella Pilling earlier in the afternoon in the final of the Novice Show Jumping where they finished in fifth place in a highly charged and speedy jump-off in the outdoor arena, made trickier by the high winds requiring stewards (and parents) to hold up the fences as the riders jumped!
The year is spent chasing qualifications for this Championship event and there are often frustrations and disappointments along the way, but for those lucky enough to get there it is a weekend of genuine camaraderie that makes all the hard work, early mornings, cold and rain(!) worth it. Cranleigh was represented by 21 riders, this making them once more the biggest team there, and most of them will be only too happy to start the process again in the hope of making it back next year!