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Priestley Cream of the Dengie Crops

The Irish determined to make the finals of the Dengie Winter League Show Jumping Championships their own for the second year in succession and Co. Down’s, Lisa Priestley, aged 15, (Iveagh) duly obliged with a blistering clear round in a time of 30.19 over Stephen Martin’s 8 fence jump off course.

A record 82 finalists congregated at Warwickshire College on Saturday (29th March) from an original line-up of 4,500 starters at 120 Centres for the seventh finals of this hugely popular series.

The table A7 course for the main event after lunch produced 32 clear rounds after a stuttering start with only one clear in the first seven rounds. But then came the clears thick and fast. The first two to go Chloe Hill (Derwent Hunt) and Georgina Morris (Oakley Hunt West), went round in blistering times and with the majority still to go, the crowd thought it was all over. Six rounds later though, enter Lisa Priestley who went round like a rocket on Dolly (30.19) and found the fastest line over the first three fences where even an experienced international might have struggled to find the right line.

With such a fast time many might have decided to go for the slower clear but it was great to see all the remaining finalists going for it, particularly Gareth McCombe also from the Iveagh who got a faster time (30.08) but unfortunately had two down. In the end Georgina Morris’s early time of 32.47 was good enough to give her 2nd place on her pony, which is normally used for Endurance, with trail blazer Chloe Hill (33.84) 4th and Annabelle Ottaway (Western Hunt) taking 3rd on the unusually marked Hillside Drummer Boy in a time of 33.23.

Lisa Priestley thought this win and the 10th place on her second ride, had added to one of the best weeks of her life. In the last week she had met former Iveagh Branch Member and now World Show Jumping Champion, Dermott Lennon. As Lisa said “Dermott is World Champion and now I’m Dengie Champion”.

One of the many highlights of the gripping competition was to see the first Centre Member at the finals. Hannah Lewis (Putley Centre) who qualified Hotspot was a credit to all involved when she was one of the 31 in the jump off. Hannah and Hotspot didn’t come for the fun as they proved in the jump off when Hannah put her foot firmly to the floor and got a good time but unfortunately had one or two down along the way. Hannah was also one of the best-supported finalists having brought along 25 supporters. Let’s hope this provides a good incentive for the Centre Members to send more along next year.

Earlier in the day, Lisa Tate (Isle of Wight) won the Dengie Winter League Warm Up in spectacular style. The win proved that Lisa had made the right choice as the Finals clashed with a Middle Schools Cross Country running competition where she had been asked to run for Hampshire!

Special mentions should be made of a number of other prize winners. The winner of the prestigious Horsemanship Award was Suzy Ottewell (Burton Hunt) who rode Cornice. Jon Doney and BSJA Chief Executive, Jacky Woods judged the prize. Suzy is currently trained by Lucy Henson (nee Jennings) for Eventing where she is to take part in the JRN series and by Matthew Lanni for Show Jumping. A lot of the credit for Suzy’s riding should go to Redmil Farm Riding School where she first learnt to ride.

Kirsty Fudge (Pembrokeshire Hunt) won the Best Turned Out prize for her horse Langarth Trilogy.

The smallest pony Appleton Emerald (12.2) and Sophie Ward (South Durham Hunt) who was one of the youngest riders at 11 deserve a mention for putting in a very credible performance against some stiff opposition.

Finally, particular credit should go to one of the great doyennes of the horse world Mrs Betty Skelton who at 94 came to watch her Great Granddaughter, Olivia Sims, take part. Olivia (Royal Artillery) returned the favour by putting in a great performance when riding Trenley Pacific Adventure into 8th place.


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