Zara Tindall

Leading riders, students and alumni shine bright during sensational summer of equestrian sport

Zara Tindall

Students and alumni of Hartpury University and Hartpury College have enjoyed a summer to remember, competing and working alongside leading riders at the NAF Five Star Hartpury Festival of Dressage, NAF Five Star Hartpury Showjumping Spectacular and NAF Five Star International Hartpury Horse Trials.

A number of staff and students joined an army of volunteers to assist with everything from car parking and stable preparation, through to dressage writing and arena stewarding. Students often make good use of the equestrian events, developing valuable connections and learning more about event management. This is just one of the many commercial opportunities on campus for students to gain essential experience and boost their future career prospectus, contributing to Hartpury’s high 97% graduate employment rate (Graduate Outcomes 2023). 

The events also provide an opportunity for current and former members of the Hartpury Equine Academy to compete. Students on the academy pathway have access to a wide range of coaching and support as they train and compete in their chosen discipline, all while studying for a college or university qualification.

NAF Five Star Hartpury Festival of Dressage (4-9 July 2023)

Hartpury’s six-day dressage bonanza kickstarted the summer with more than 700 horses and riders competing in Premier League, CDI and CPEDI classes during the week. With the Para European Championships on the horizon, a strong international field made the trip to Hartpury, Gloucestershire to contest CPEDI Team and Individual honours.

Hartpury University BA (Hons) Equine Business Management student Jessica McKenna put in perhaps the most impressive home performance of the summer, winning the FEI CPEDI3* Grand Prix B III with her horse Davidoff. The Irish international rider looks a serious prospect for future team selection, and kept a cool head under pressure.

Rosie Scott-Ward, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Hartpury University said: “Congratulations to Jessica on an outstanding result in the CPEDI3* competition. To combine studying with competing at this level requires serious dedication and commitment, and we’re excited to see what’s next for Jessica and Davidoff.

“We’re very proud of all students, past and present, competing at our summer events.”

Former A-level student Olivia Oakeley also caught the eye in the CDI1* Prix St Georges, sponsored by Tom Hobday, scoring 71%. Having led the way for the majority of the class, they eventually settled for a credible second place.

Former students Daniel Bremner (BSc Equine Science), Stef Eardley, Hope Hayward, Rob Barker, Kelly Jewel, Emily Dove, Jessica Hickey, Louise Gallavan, Sarah Rao, Rowan Bryson, and Sally Kar-Falcon were all in action during the week, showcasing their talents. Recent graduates Emily Dove (BSc Bioveterinary Science) and Jessica Hickey (BSc Equestrian Sports Science) are also an example of Hartpury’s renowned Equine Academy pathway.

Elsewhere, Carl Hester made his very short trip to Hartpury worthwhile, notching up wins in the CDI3* Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special. Yorkshire’s Becky Moody enjoyed a successful week too, getting crowds at Saturday evening’s gala performance on their feet for her Tom Jones musical medley that saw her win the CDI Grand Prix Freestyle.

NAF Five Star Hartpury Showjumping Spectacular (20-23 July 2023)

Returning to its usual place in the calendar, the NAF Five Star Hartpury Showjumping Spectacular took place in changeable weather conditions in stark contrast to previous years. 

The NAF Five Star 1.50m Area Trial had some of the worst conditions, although heavy rain couldn’t stop Helen Tredwell picking up yet another Trial win, following up her victory at Devon County and a second place at Herts County.

Mark Thomspon outpaced everyone, to win one of the show highlights - the Nupafeed Supplements Senior Discovery Second Round with Masterpiece F.

Course-designer Krissy Spiller set a 12-fence 1.05m track for the 49 starters and 30 of them returned initial clears. These were reduced to 17 for the third and final round against the clock.

“It was a spooky course with lots of brightly coloured fences which he hasn’t seen a great deal of but he coped well enough,” said Derbyshire-based Mark, who bought the Harley VDL x Burggraaf 6-year-old 12 months ago from Ross Hill.  

“He’s really easy and straightforward, I wish they were all like him, he makes life easy.”

The pair found the shortest route to win by just 0.17 seconds.

“I didn’t go particularly quick but we got all the inside turns; he’s super-careful and one of the best I’ve ever ridden for being careful – he just doesn’t touch wood!” added Mark.  

Robert Skyrme jumped Zambian Rambo into second and Royan O’Sullivan claimed third with My Turismo Key SR.   

Equine Academy Director Lizzel Winter put in several rounds of jumping, watched on by husband Eric and son James. Hartpury student and Equine Academy student Daniela Gómez has been making her presence known on the national circuit, with her aim of representing Spain in the under 21s European Championships / Nations Cups 2024. Former Equine Academy rider Emily Dove also jumped in several classes.

NAF Five Star International Hartpury Horse Trials (9-13 August 2023)

It was a NAF Five Star International Hartpury Horse Trials to remember as Great Britain’s Piggy March became the rider with the most wins in the NAF Magic CCI4*S at Hartpury, taking the competition for a fourth time with Burghley-bound Brookfield Inocent. Piggy won the class in 2022, later going on to win Burghley with her veteran campaigner Vanir Kamira. 

Brookfield Inocent looked classy, taking on Eric Winter’s beautifully designed cross country course that once again rewarded bold riding.

Several combinations moved into the 4* top ten thanks to accomplished cross country rounds. Wiltshire-based David Doel finished with two rides in the top seven, while Felicity Collins finished in third place having added just two time penalties to her dressage score. Bubby Upton had a Hartpury to remember, with two rides in the top 10 including with her Badminton partner Cola III.

Horses entered for Burghley used the Hartpury hill as a taste of what’s to come in Lincolnshire this autumn, with Zara Tindall and Class Affair capitalising on faultless clear rounds in both jumping phases to finish in ninth place.

Cumbrian-born Mark Davidson and Fonbherna Lancer won the NAF Superflex CCI3*L, leading from start to finish and adding to their two CCI3*S wins this season.

In the NAF Metazone CCI2*L, poles proved costly in the final showjumping phase. Holly Woodhead and Guns N Roses had led from the start of the competition, but needed a clear round to win. Unfortunately, two poles came down, dropping the combination out of the top ten and rewarding Ireland’s Padraig McCarthy and MGH Zabaione with a win after an immaculate clear round around Paul Connor’s showjumping track.

Hartpury students and graduates including Saskia Davies, Saffron Cresswell and Daya Singh Hujin (both BTEC Level 3 Extended Diplma Horse Management Business), Lily Sweet (BSc Equestrian Sports Coaching),  and Max Warburton were also in action. Saskia completed with two horses - Singing Usk and Puccini II, stating that the Hartpury International remains one of her ‘favourite events’.

During the event, a drinks reception for Hartpury alumni welcomed 92 former students to catch up over Pimms and strawberries, enjoying the cross country action from an ideal vantage point outside Hartpury House. The event, part of Hartpury’s 75th anniversary celebrations, was a huge success and demonstrates the institution’s growing alumni community. Former governors also attended the event alongside Hartpury’s Vice-Chancellor, Principal and CEO Prof Andy Collop and MP Mark Harper.

The event also offered an opportunity to promote areas of research at Hartpury University. The Thoroughbred Census, the first ever survey of thoroughbred horses in Great Britain, had a named cross country fence. The partnership between Hartpury and British Racing’s Horse Welfare Board, aims to build an improved thoroughbred data bank about former racehorses and the lives they go on to lead.

Phillip Cheetham, Event Director said: "We're absolutely delighted with the success of all three equestrian events this year. 

“Eric Winter designed three superb cross country courses while Paul Connor built three showjumping tracks that were a fair test and ensured a thrilling eventing competition right to the end. The team worked hard to ensure the very best ground conditions, reflected in how well the horses came back from their exertions. Congratulations to all three of our winners who provided a masterclass in eventing and horsemanship. 

"Our CCI4*S competition continues to attract the very best horses and riders as they look ahead to the autumn, and we're thrilled for Piggy who has now become the rider with the most wins in our 4* class. We wish her well for Burghley in a few weeks' time.

"I'd like to thank all of our sponsors - particularly NAF, as well as our officials, volunteers, medical and veterinary teams, who help to make this event so special, and always ensure our horses and riders are so well looked after."

Hartpury’s equine events will return in 2024.

Photo: Zara Tindall and Class Affair, courtesy of Angie Lock

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