Millfield School's clean sweep at Hickstead

Hundreds of young showjumping talents came to Hickstead, West Sussex today for the annual Hurstpierpoint College National Schools and Pony Club Jumping Championships. Millfield School, from Street in Somerset, had a fantastic result in the Senior Schools competition, finishing first and second in the teams section and winning the individual title as well.

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The winning team was made up of Teddy Stevens, 18, on Casall George; Charlotte East, 16, and Clear Dawn; and Phoebe Lock, 14, on Quay.

Youngest team member Phoebe has only recently returned from the Pony European Championships, where she was part of the British Eventing squad for Team GB. She used to showjump while on 128cm and 138cm ponies, before switching to eventing.

Her Millfield team mate Charlotte East also events up to BE Novice level and is aiming at her first one-star. "I came here last year when our team finished second, so it was nice to be in first place today," she said.

Teddy Stevens, 18, who has just completed his final year at Millfield, was riding his experienced 10-year-old showjumper Casall George, with whom he jumped at last week's Longines Royal International Horse Show.

Individual honours in the Senior section went to Victoria Garfield-Bennett and the locally-bred Billy Crunch, who were part of the second-placed Millfield School Blue Team.

Victoria, 14, comes from Jersey and is about to start studying for her GSCEs. "He tries his hardest to never touch a pole," she said about her chestnut gelding.

The Pony Club competition saw some tough competition as usual, with South Notts Hunt Branch of the Pony Club the runaway winners with a clean sheet, having had three clear rounds. Their team comprised Alice Stubbs, 19, on Who's Oscar; Sam Shaw, 18, on Druids Stone; Francesca Marriot, 18, on Remi Peroni and Natalie Bell, 22, on Princess B.

Asked what it meant to win there, Natalie said: "I've always wanted to win this, it's one of the biggest competitions there is, and I've been coming here to Hickstead for five years."

The team paid thanks to their Pony Club instructor and showjumping trainer Kirsty Hardstaff. "We couldn't have done it without her," added Natalie.

The individual prize went to Leah McCrady and Ryans Hollie, who were representing the Garth Hunt Branch of the Pony Club. Leah, 16, had not competed at Hickstead since she was a 10-year-old competing in 128cm classes, and she was delighted to make a winning return to the All England Jumping Course.

"I've been riding 'Hollie' since November and she's just an allround joy," said Leah about the seven-year-old mare, who belongs to Penny Grimster, the mother of Leah's trainer Kerry. "You always know you'll get through the start and finish line with her, and she's so quick."

Kilkenny College made it a double in the Junior Schools section, winning both the team and individual honours.

A total of 18 teams started the competition, with the top 10 qualifying to compete in the final in the International Arena. With a combined team total of just 4 faults, the riders from Kilkenny College - Monica Cairns, Iseult Cahill and Alice Varian - could not be caught, making theirs a very worthwhile journey. Dean Close and St Leonards Mayfield finished joint second on eight faults.

Iseult also took the individual honours, jumping double clear and winning the jump-off by just 0.2sec. "It was amazing as we only came here for fun!" said Iseult. The 13-year-old was riding Knockmanagh Prince, an 11-year-old gelding that she's had for three years and with whom she does all Pony Club activities.

The show was once again supported by Hurstpierpoint College. "Every year and at every level, I have always been deeply impressed by the spirit, dedication, discipline and the comradeship displayed by every one of the young equestrians who try their hand at this great competition," said Tim Manly, Headmaster.

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