Merrist Wood, Surrey, 1 April
Featuring riders Sarah Millis, Claire Moir, Tor Fenwick, Liz Diegutis, Debbie Poynter, Jo Wood, Rowan Bryson, Holly Colgate-Hardaway, Jamie Broom, Issy Rosser, Natasha Gibbons and Betty Tatchell,
BIG TOUR at Merrist lived up to its name with Grand Prix and Inter II classes filling the warm-up arena with giants at the end of a day featuring many big personalities. A lot of combinations were stepping up to a new and challenging level — so frequently scores were on a more modest scale. But Sarah Millis, below, took 18hh-plus Behroez from his current competitive international plus-72% small tour level two steps up the ladder to winning his debut grand prix on an impressive 67.5%.
Claire Moir, featured top, made what was almost her own grand prix debut, as well as that of 18hh-plus Davonport Bewes. She thereby exceeded her ambition, achieved two years before to compete "Rodney" in small tour at a favourite international venue, Compiègne. Another two GP debutants were Joe Bright and a confident and relaxed 18hh JBD Wodan, see below. The previously nervous horse has clearly benefited from SAS-equivalent arena familiarisation training that included Stoneleigh last year as a member of the Hickstead Quadrille,
Since Compiègne, which Claire celebrated with Rodney and Rodney's owner and breeder Anne Haydon in 2016, the rider has had a battle with colonic cancer that involved a 10-hour operation. But she said, “I was not able to ride for a couple of months afterwards but during that time I taught [16-year-old] Samantha Willson on him and she competed him at Advanced and enabled her to get her qualification to ride at PSG.”
Claire reflected: “Compiègne was wonderful and everything we achieve now is a
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