The early Sunday morning start for the 1.25m Amateur A Grand Prix sponsored by Andrews Bowen did not deter the twenty-seven starters that came forward on the final day of the 2017 Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show.
Ten combinations posted clear rounds to go through to the Jump-Off and Nantwich rider Sarah Billington was the first to record a double clear, setting the target time of 35.46 seconds with Uforia Jx.
American visitor Rosalie Biedron looked set to deny Billington a second consecutive win in the class with LVS Wizard but brought the final rail down to finish in seventh, despite bettering the time by nearly a second. Having taken second place in Saturday's 1.15m Amateur B Grand Prix, Julie Slade (Nicholas 55) was aiming to go one better but it wasn't to be as again she had to settle for the runner up position with 36.64 seconds on the clock. Just a few rounds later, she was joined by Natasha Piper who posted an identical time with Valentijn O. Second from last to jump, Pollyanna Gredley was another who delivered a scorching round with Unex Arantos but again the last fence came into play and she finished in fifth, leaving Billington in front at the end of the competition.
'My mare is such a trier,' said Billington speaking after her win. 'I'd decided before I went into the ring that I was going to take four strides to the last. It did look quite far off when I landed but she took off and that's where I made it.'
'Bolesworth has been an absolutely fantastic show with amazing weather and a super atmosphere.'
'I go to the Royal Highland Show next weekend and then Southview International after that.'
Taking place in the lunchtime slot, the Invitational Mini-Major Relay sponsored by Archco Developments saw the grandstands fill to cheer on the ten senior riders in fancy dress who had been partnered with some of Britain's best pony riders. First into the arena, Louise 'Batwoman' Saywell and Charley Bevan brought the crowd alive, jointly posting a clear round in a time of 52.98 seconds. As the competition progressed, the fences started to come down with increasing regularity, with four seconds being added to the time of each combination for every rail down. Chloe 'The Chicken' Aston and Scarlett Cox Lomas did their best to overtake the initial leaders but in the end their performance in a time of 53.88 seconds earned them second place.
'It was very nervous going in but I thought we did a good job,' said Charley Bevan speaking after her win. 'It was very hot out there,' said her competition partner Louise Saywell who, along with the other senior riders had suffered with wearing a costume in the blistering heat. 'My horse is a big jumper so I can turn him really tight.'
'Competitions like this are great, especially for the adults to have a bit of fun instead of the serious competition that we have. For kids to get into an arena with an atmosphere like Bolesworth is brilliant.'
Following the adrenaline-filled CSI4* Equerry Bolesworth International Grand Prix, the curtain came down on the 2017 show with the 138cm Grand Prix sponsored by Didy Morgan where the action proved just as intense. Seven combinations made it through to the Jump-Off and it was local rider Madison Heath who came out on top with Sonas Barney.
'I had two ponies in the Jump-Off,' said Madison after her win. 'As soon as I got them both through I didn't really mind where I came.'
Heath, who won the Mini-Major class with Emily Ward three years ago, came into the deciding round with her second ride immediately after the lead had been taken by Scottish rider Shaunie Greg with Dumaclan Flight.
'I didn't think I could beat Shaunie as she's beaten me in the past,' said Madison. 'It's just unbelievable, I'm so happy.'