Cranleigh riders were on the national podium again this weekend when the Novice team finished in bronze medal position at the National County Challenge Finals at Bury Farm in Buckinghamshire. The team of Sam Hollidge, Poppy Watkinson, Josh Moore and Freya Hough qualified to represent Surrey at this competition by winning the Surrey title during the Easter holiday: at the championship event on Saturday they found themselves pitted against teams from 29 other counties from as far afield as Devon, Gloucestershire, Cheshire, North Wales and Greater Manchester!
The competition was run over two rounds, with the first round in the outdoor arena presenting relatively few problems for the majority of teams. It was the second round in the indoor international arena that quickly sorted the teams, with fences at maximum height and spread, fillers of all shapes and sizes at every fence and even a friendly full-sized model horse and cow positioned half way round the course to put off the feint-hearted! Despite almost half of the teams presenting for the second round on zero faults this very quickly changed, and by the time the Cranleigh team competed towards the end of the class (run in alphabetical order by county!) there were only three teams remaining on zero. All the Cranleigh riders rode determined, careful rounds as per course walk instructions from Sophie Spear (Director of Riding), with double clears from Sam, Poppy and Freya ensuring that we were the fourth team to finish on zero. The top three placings were therefore decided on the jump off times from the second round, putting out team in a splendid third position.
Sam Hollidge had also qualified to represent Surrey as their individual rider in the Mini competition in the morning. He rode a careful first round to go clear and was desperately unlucky to tip a pole in the double during the second. This put him just outside of the top eight, although a 13th place in this national final was still a fantastic result.