London International Horse Show paints blue

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16 December 2023 – CSI5* jumping made an exciting return to London International Horse Show with two British riders, Matt Sampson and Ben Maher, winning The Christmas Pudding Speed Stakes and The Champagne-Taittinger Ivy Stakes respectively. The first leg of the FEI Driving World CupTM Qualifier provided thrilling action and there were impressive jumping performances in the Services Jumping Championship. One of the many highlights in the New Horizon Plastics London Arena was the LeMieux Perfect Partnerships Masterclass, with dynamic duo Pippa Funnell and Tina Cook. Showing continued with fabulous wins across classes for Riding Horses, Racehorses to Show Horses and Hacks, while the Kennel Club Dog Agility also took centre stage with the Discover Dogs Small/Maxi Pairs Challenge Final – Jumping – supported by Agria.  Away from the competition, Rebecca Hewit, Liz Geldard, Liz Brown and Caroline Griffith were awarded BEF Medals of Honour.  

NO LIMIT FOR MR BLUE SKY UK 

The LeMieux Puissance proved an exhilarating finale to the end of the third day of the 2023 Show. In total, 13 combinations contested the class with proven Puissance specialists including last year’s joint winners Guy Williams and Joseph Trunkfield being joined by first-timers such as 5* Eventer Gemma Stevens. The famous red wall was eventually raised to the remarkable height of 2.18m. Three riders, Guy Williams, Mark Edwards and Commandant Geoff Curran, entered the spectacular International Arena in this, the fifth and final round of the competition. It was only Great Britain’s Guy Williams and Mr. Blue Sky, who managed to clear the wall.The combination made it a recording breaking performance to claim three wins in a row at the venue, with five wins in total.  Williams said: “He is very good at this – he gets better as the rounds go on. If you ride him forward in the final round, I think he could jump anything you put in front of him. He has amazing scope and is careful – he is a really good jumper. The owners have had him since he was four-years-old and they are here tonight so it is great for them. I have been preparing him for this week – we came here to win and we did just that.”

SAMPSON STARTS AS HE LEFT OFF

The opening CSI5* Show Jumping class of the 2023 Show was The Christmas Pudding Speed Stakes, featuring many of the world’s best riders. Setting the early pace was Austria’s Max Kühner, jumping the first clear in a time of 57.69 seconds. Great Britain’s Robert Whitaker showed the time was beatable, shaving over three seconds off Kühner’s time, but had four faults at the last. Germany’s Marcus Ehning – who has competed at the London International Horse Show every year since he won a gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games – produced a smooth clear, but the time was not enough to challenge the lead. It was not until the final third of the competition that the leaderboard changed. Duarte Seabra was the first to take over the lead, however the Portuguese rider’s position was short lived, with Ireland’s Connor Swail making all the turns required to move to the top of the leaderboard. Crowd favourite John Whitaker looked to put Swail’s lead in jeopardy, but collected four faults on the course, pushing him out of the placings.  French former World No. 1, Kevin Staut, put on an excellent performance as the penultimate to go, but his time was only good enough for eventual fourth place. The last to go, Matt Sampson – the London Grand Prix winner from the 2022 Show – set off meaning business from the first fence and had the crowd on their feet as he took the victory for Great Britain with a scintillating clear round in a time of 52.43 seconds. 

The 33-year-old, who spends much of his year in Canada, said “It is really nice to kick off a week like this. She is a fantastic horse – she is so careful and she was knocking on the door for a win like that. She jumped at the Horse of the Year Show with Gemma Stevens, who produced her, so it is a joint victory for us all. She has never jumped in an environment like this with all the crowds, so I am delighted. There is no crowd in the world that compares to the one at London International Horse Show. We work hard all year to get to the show, so to achieve a win in front of such a vibrant crowd is truly amazing.”

The victory in this event, a long-standing favourite at London International Horse Show, went to Ben Maher. Several British pairs, such as the Show’s Ambassadors, Harry Charles and Jodie Hall-McAteer, as well as the legendary John Whitaker, jumped clear in the first round. Matt Sampson, eager to establish a winning streak following The Christmas Pudding Speed Stakes, rode the experienced 17-year-old stallion Daniel and delivered a flawless first round, adding to Great Britain’s chances in the competition.  The jump-off featured 14 combinations from eight different nations. Demonstrating his prowess as the World No. 2, Maher, aboard Ginger-Blue, set the standard as the first to go.

He executed a heart-stopping round, including a remarkable sixpence turn to the vertical Post Box fence at number four, which posed a challenge for several other combinations. Maher’s unbeatable winning time of 34.54 seconds remained unchallenged until the last combination, Max Kühner and EIC Cooley Jump the Q, who came within one second of the winning time. Kendra Clairicia from Germany secured the third spot, commendably riding the same winning lines as Maher with precision, but fell short by just 1.14 seconds. Speaking on his win and about Ginger-Blue, Maher said: “I’m very happy, it is great to get a win this early on in the week, I love this time of year and seeing everyone here at London International Horse Show. It was a long wait, being first to go with 14 in the jump-off, but Ginger-Blue is a naturally fast horse and it all worked out in the end. She’s experienced and we have a long-term partnership. I’m looking forward to riding her in the London Grand Prix on Monday, a class in which she came second in a couple of years ago.

EXELL LEADS FEI DRIVING WORLD CUPTM

The opening competition that determined the order for tomorrow’s second leg of the FEI Driving World CupTM was won by Boyd Exell, who has been crowned champion at London International Horse Show an impressive 12 times, including both legs of the FEI Driving World CupTM that took place here last year. The two phases of the testing obstacle competition had only the fastest three (in reverse order) take on the shortened course. The drive-off was a battle between the best, seeing three of the world’s top four drivers; Koos de Ronde, Ijsbrand Chardon, and Boyd Exell go head to head. Exell demonstrated why he is top of the FEI rankings, as he once again magically steered his team of four around the arena to finish on a time that was one second quicker than the impressive Chardon.  Speaking after the class, Exell said: “I could hear the crowd helping us, they were obviously aware of how much I needed to push to beat Chardon, so we galloped down the back straight and really went for it until we reached the finish line – it was such an amazing atmosphere in there.” When commenting on his team of horses, he said: “My two back horses, Mad Max and Barny are the galloping power, they are brilliant to drive, Jupiter is my fantastic 14-year-old right leader, and Bajnok is my 20-year-old left leader, he is the brains behind the operation and is so fast, clever and very hard to replace.”

BRITISH ARMY DOMINATES SERVICES JUMPING

Captain Lara Dixon (RLC) riding Topsy V, winners of The Services Jumping Championship The Services Showjumping is the flagship fixture for Service riders (including the Emergency Services) and requires qualification over three qualifying legs during the military competition season. The series is administered by the UK Armed Forces Equestrian Association and very kindly sponsored by the Worshipful Company of Saddlers. For the second year running, the British Army has managed to take seven out of eight qualifying slots with the remaining slot taken by the Royal Navy. This year Capt Lara Dixon (RLC) and her own horse, Topsy V, took the win with Cpl Holly Hall (RLC) and Quotender and Capt Mary Pearson (RAVC) and Je Taime Fandango coming in second and third place respectively, only by fractions of a second 0.4 and 0.5s respectively. Capt Lara Dixon has had a busy and successful year balancing her day job as the Regimental Operations Officer at 1 Regiment RLC, part of 3rd (UK) Division, the British Army’s primary warfighting Division. 1 Regt RLC has deployed to Germany as pre-deployment training in preparation of OP CABRIT and with sub-units also deployed on Ex ALLIED SPIRIT in Georgia. Capt Dixon returned to the competitive riding scene this year and has achieved podium finishes at Royal Windsor Horse Show and Chepstow Spring Int’l CCI1* Grand Prix.  RAVC: Royal Army Veterinary Corps OP CABRIT: The UK’s commitment to the NATO enhanced forward presence battlegroup in Estonia. 

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Ben Maher riding Ginger-Blue, winners of The Champagne Taittinger Ivy Stakes at London International Horse Show @LondonInternationalHorseShow/Peter Nixon Later in the day, the 1.50m Champagne-Taittinger Ivy Stakes witnessed 35 participants taking on the two-round challenge.

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