The Duchess High School Equestrian Team were out in full force this weekend, competing against 15 other schools from the North of England and Scotland for a qualifying round that would lead to a place at the National Championships at Addington in October this year.  This is a prestigious event and brings together the top teams, selected via qualifying rounds from schools throughout England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.  It’s a hotly contended competition and qualifying rounds are hard to come by, so competitors at this weekends event were on their metal and as an early opportunity at the beginning of the season for a ‘ticket to champs’ all eyes were on the teams, competitors were checking out their competition and walking courses strategically with our coaches to ensure they put in the best rounds they possibly could.

We were lucky enough to have two teams entered for DCHS.  Class 2 of the day, 75cm JWS (Jumping with style) saw Ellie G, Poppy D, Eve C and Daisy L pitch up against some hot competition.  The class required a round of show jumps followed immediately by a cross country style course, which was a technical course and caught a lot of jockeys and horses out with its complex lines to fences and a variety of fillers which some riders this early in the season found tricky to deal with.  All the riders in our team listened attentively to their designated team coaches for the day, and finished with Poppy 1st, Eve, 9th, Ellie 10th and Daisy 13th place out of a contingent of 31 riders.  This meant that the overall Team won the class giving them a ticket to Addington in October, and Poppy also qualified as an individual – so a great start to the day!

Class 3: 85cm JWS saw a team of Ellie, Poppy, Sam P and Daisy, Eve and Milly W both rode as individuals.  There was a slight change of course introducing some more complex lines to ride and of course all the fences increased in height.  Poppy rode her absolute best round of the day, and actually got a mention at the end of the day by the judges as one of only two riders who stood out to them – finishing on a score of zero – which is the highest placing a rider can achieve in this competition.  Poppy rode it well to finish inside the optimum time, a great accolade for such a young rider to achieve.  Sam rode an impressive round, finishing on a score of 1, that put her in to 3rd place.  At this point in the competition we were level with Loretto and Longridge Towers, Ellie and Daisy rolled a few poles, and Daisy gathered some time penalties, however we were still in the competition for a placing as a team in the top three, but all riders were finding the course a challenge, some were eliminated, some gained time penalties, it was all to ride for.  Longridge unfortunately had an elimination with their final rider, which pushed them out of the competition for a team placing, so that left DCHS head to head with Loretto, whilst the scorers put together the results the Team managers from both schools agonised over the placings, there were literally seconds, and points separating the two teams, however eventually we finished in 2nd place as a team, as although Loretto had more time penalties than us, three of their riders had ridden 2 clear rounds, which trumped our placing.  However we were delighted to gather another ticket to Champs!  Eve rode very well, just picking up a few time penalties to finish 6th individually, just missing out on a qualifying round, but a very respectable placing, especially as this is Eve’s first attempt at this competition.  Milly gathered a few time penalties and had an unfortunate roll of a cross country pole, but Milly was riding a horse that has been out of action for quite some time, so we were all delighted to see her finish in a respectable 17th place on the leader board.

Ellie and Poppy have decided this year to have a go at the 95cm JWS classes, something neither of them have attempted before, so we thought this was a perfect opportunity.  They were both apprehensive, but again our coaches swooped in to ease nerves and gave some super advice and tips which obviously worked as saw Poppy finishing in 2nd place, and Ellie finishing in 6th, a super end to a busy day.

I would like to say a huge thankyou to all the parents a special thanks to Philly Bell and Gail Gray – the ‘team grannies’ and our super coaches, they bring a wealth of experience with them, and have a super talent for bringing out the very best in all the children, but most importantly making it fun!!  We always ensure we train hard, and we are confident all the children in the teams and that run as individuals, have the capability to perform well in competition, but we pitch up with no expectations so to finish with a 1st and a 2nd at our first team outing for DCHS really is a special achievement.  Thanks also to the school for putting your trust in us as a team of parents and supporting the children at school to be able to attend the events and training.

Rachel G & Julia D – Team Managers