Straight from the horse’s mouth… Here we catch up with Billy Bank and the team to find out how they got on at the Championships…
Top of the Morning to you, and what a glorious one it is at that!
Autumn is approaching fast which is simply my favourite time of year. August has certainly been a busy month with lots of fun and more than a little bit of success too!
The International Youth Championships
First stop was The International Youth Championships at Bishop Burton, our local venue, with The Leading Lady on board. Given we were only travelling 10 miles up the road I couldn’t believe the amount of gear Granny packed! Everything bar the kitchen sink along with plentiful supplies of Fibre-Beet ready to keep up my hydration levels, as boy it was hot.
On arrival I had my temperature taken yet again before being allowed into the stables. I was next to The Green Goblin so it was nice to see a familiar, if not always friendly, face.
The trot up always causes everyone’s heart rate to increase. “I mean you know your horse is sound but well, until you hear accepted your pulse is racing,” said Granny flicking off imaginary dust from my flanks. I flicked my toes and winked at the ground jury, no problem for us. A quick photo shoot for the Northern Under18 BE90 squad who all looked super smart in their team jackets provided by Emma Stone, whose company Emzy’s Embroidery makes clothing and rosettes, before heading onto the weighbridge. My weight was recorded then it was back to the stables to relax.
The dressage has been leprechaun free all season, but in a long arena with potted plants to hide behind, would they appear? Thankfully not but I couldn’t resist a little leap into the first canter just to keep The Leading Lady on her toes. Our score wasn’t too shabby and with all the Northern squad posting competitive tests the team was right up there with a Northern individual in pole position.
The cross country has to be my favourite phase. The turf at Bishop Burton had been prepared well and despite the lack of rain there was a little bit of give from the aeration. The fences were beautifully dressed and designed to give a real championship feel. It was great to cruise round and come home clear inside the time. The Northern team were keeping the pressure on with one fence separating us from the top spot.
The show jumping followed another trot up and weigh in, where it was discovered I had put on a stone! What…?! Was it too much hydrating Fibre-Beet maybe or simply chilling out with the gang in holiday mode? Well it didn’t affect my ability to bend my knees and tuck up over the coloured fences. I didn’t touch a pole, text book clear round I am pleased to report. Slowly and surely others faulted and we crept up the leader board to finish in seventh place individually and help the Northern Team secure the win. With two Northern members taking first and third place the coaches and support group were ecstatic.
The JCB Pony Club Championships
There was no time to rest on my laurels with The JCB Pony Club Championships looming at Offchurch Bury. After a few days off and a couple of sessions with ‘He who must be obeyed’ I felt ready for the challenge. The Young Master was feeling more like his old self with his eye back in. Granny went on ahead to help a couple of the gang who were contesting their first Pony Club Championship in the pure dressage.
The jungle drums soon started beating and word that The Green Goblin had wowed the judges with her nifty moves winning in her arena! Helsinki had contained himself, making full use of his natural exuberance, without boiling over to pick up a fourth in a very competitive section. What a great start for the girls. It was lovely to stable with some old friends and enjoy the peace and quiet. I arrived the following day ready for my show jumping class feeling relaxed and refreshed.
The course builders had designed a wonderful track which required full concentration to jump clear. With his game face on The Young Master delivered, we went into the second round on a zero-penalty score. To heighten the excitement the second round was jumped in reverse order so we had a bit of a wait. Clear rounds were definitely at a premium as poles rained down. Our hopes of a win were washed away when I clipped a fence due, I have to say, to The Young Master cutting the corner but we finished third in a class where there was only one double clear. A podium moment and nice prize, everyone was happy.
The following day I stayed at the yard, for further relaxation, while the girls headed to the site for the first part of the Novice team eventing, dressage and show jumping. Once again the ponies had their dancing shoes on posting good scores in the first phase which combined with the other members of the York & Ainsty South team left them handily placed.
The show jumping was a cleverly designed course which caught out many including our youngsters who all picked up four faults. Still, as Granny predicted it sure as heck wasn’t going to be a dressage competition. The cross country course was a proper championship track where fortune would favour the brave. Attacking riding with a cool head would be needed to bring home a clear inside the time.
Ponies and riders had an evening to contemplate their fate before we all headed back. I had another long arena dressage test and even bigger show jumping track to negotiate following the girls cross country rounds.
It was clear from the general level of agitation amongst the parents, nerves were jingling and pulses racing. Word was filtering back that a family of leprechauns had taken over at the water jump jinxing all those who dared to threaten their supremacy.
The Green Goblin, who is let’s face it is leprechaun born and bred, was having none of that. “I’ll soon show them,” she said with a toss of her head and with that she was gone. True to her word she blasted round the course and blazed through the water. The evil sprites, recognising their Queen, made no protest and let her pass clear. Helsinki, not of the sprite world, encountered brief resistance collecting 20 penalties there.
The team, already a man down due to the hard ground taking its toll, slipped further down the order when the final member picked up 60 penalties at the same fence. When the final individual results came in The Green Goblin finished fourth with Helsinki eighth. There was much celebrating and consumption of sloppy Fibre-Beet I can tell you!
It was over to me now. Down at the dressage arena I felt good, The Young Master was confident and we entered at ‘A’ full of purpose. Apart from one dodgy moment in the leg yield I felt it had gone well. The judges agreed and we had a competitive score.
At the showjumping, 110cms never had looked so big! Again clear rounds were few and far between. No time for self-doubt, The Young Master was riding like a demon. Around we flew with just the last treble combination in sight. In and out I popped, so close yet so far… I barely touched the middle element but it rolled and fell.
A pesky four faults. “Never mind,” Granny consoled me with a pat, “Still everything to play for tomorrow, you’re still in the top ten.”
The Young Master was leaving nothing to chance and he had walked the course four times. He had every line etched in his memory and knew exactly where to shave a corner to save valuable seconds. What can I say… we had the ride of our lives coming home clear neatly inside the time, with our round pulling us up into fifth place. Not a bad result for our first Championship 100 plus.
The icing on the cake came at the end of regular prize giving when it was announced the Valori cup for Horsemanship had been won by none other than The Young Master. For the first time ever Granny was rendered speechless apparently before shedding an emotional tear. What a way for The Young Master to end his Pony Club ridden career. What wonderful memories he and I have of our time in The York & Ainsty South Branch where our partnership has grown and been nurtured by fantastic people.
The journey back to Yorkshire seemed much shorter and I am now currently enjoying a short sabbatical. It won’t be long before boredom sets in and I get up to mischief causing Granny to shout “Enough!” and my tack will reappear. Watch this space…
Billy Bank x