Writtle College – (11/01/2015)

Cambridge University Equestrian Team

First Team — BUCS Match hosted by Writtle College, Chelmsford, 11th February 2015

Written by Ginny Fellows

Victorious First team (L-R Alice SS, Alice W, Ginny, Vilma)

On Wednesday 11th February, the Cambridge University Equestrian First Team of Ginny Fellows, Alice Watson, Captain Alice Strang Steel and debutant Vilma Heiskanen travelled down to Writtle College to compete in the penultimate BUCS league match of the season, competing against Writtle, the University of Essex and the University of East Anglia. We had the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely start to the day with a start time of 12pm, somewhat later than the 9am starts of previous matches. It was a roomy journey, partly because Alice’s car is a bit bigger than Ginny’s, and partly because unfortunately Ali couldn’t make the match, so we didn’t have the stash of useful things everyone else had forgotten… The later start time clearly helped, as all the teams made it to the venue on time!

Despite the relatively mild weather, on arrival a cup of tea was sought. There was excitement when a kettle was produced, with milk, but unfortunately no tea… At this point, Vilma goes to her bag and produces four tea bags to meet our needs. Dilemma one of the day over!

Vilma has temporarily replaced Ali as our supplier of what is most in demand.  In this case tea, not hairnets or stock pins.

So onto the riding. Having won every match so far, the pressure was on Cambridge to perform, as another win would bring them closer to the Regional Final qualification that they were aiming for. The dressage horses were shown, ranging from a flashy 13.2hh pony to a large grey beast. Vilma drew the pony and only minutes after learning how to perform one of the moves of the test, produced a beautiful test seeing off her rivals by 30 points. Captain Alice emulated the fluency and togetherness of Vilma’s test on the large grey horse, to finish on zero penalties, well clear of the other competitors. Ginny and Alice had horses less accustomed to the dressage arena.  Alice was first of the four jockeys to be partnered with her bay mare, a hollow, sensitive horse who she improved from the warm up to the arena to produce a relatively relaxed test, to just miss out on the top spot and finish on 2 penalties. Ginny had been partnered with (apparently) an ex police horse, ex being the key phrase as this horse spooked at everything possible, including its dishing right fore. Ginny navigated the tricky ride expertly around the arena to finish on just 7 penalties. At the end of the dressage phase Cambridge were leading the competition by over 30 penalties, so it was all to play for in the jumping phase.

The competitors faced a technical eight fence course for the show jumping. The horses again were variable in ease of control, from Vilma’s manic coloured horse Sam (who has become something of a famous face during Writtle’s competitions) to Alice’s kick-on, rather sluggish ride. Ginny was greeted in a slightly ‘dribbly cloth’ state (apologies for the in-joke) to a horse change, after her little dun pony she had drawn was expelled from the competition after dumping its jockey twice during the round where the horses were ridden around the course by their regular riders – evidently he was having an off-day and was thus replaced by a novice but very sound grey. Vilma was first to go and did all she could to point the speedy coloured at the fences in the correct order, using all her strength to turn between fences and produced an admirable round. Alice W had a nose diving horse, who did it’s best to unbalance her, but which she held together round the eight fences and despite an unfortunate knock-down managed to finish on only 3 penalties. Captain Alice SS used what leg she had left to persuade her chestnut it did want to jump, and Ginny, glad to have her horse last after it had decided the filler was not as scary as it looked, rode stylishly and scored the best on her horse of the team riders. Everyone made it round safely, though at a variety of speeds, despite other teams questioning their trust in the horses.


Captain Alice showing us how it’s done in the dressage phase

Now after dark due to the later starting time, the results were in. Cambridge had managed to maintain their lead from the dressage phase and thus were victorious as a team, continuing their unbeaten run this season. Individually Alice W was placed 3rd, Ginny 4th and Vilma finished 7th. Smiles all round (until we nearly headed south on the M11 on the journey home…)