Friday 7th March saw equestrian teams from both Cambridge and Oxford come head to head on Oxford turf, at Hall Place Equestrian Centre. Each team consisted of 4 riders with a first and second team from each place. The first teams competed for the light blue-dominated trophy, whilst the seconds vied for a sparkly new trophy. With tension and poor feeling between the teams in previous years, this year the aim of the competition was to have a more enjoyable competition; still, inside every rider was a burning desire to come out on top. Despite this, the day started well with glorious weather, the rider fantastically presented and spirits high.

On arrival at Hall Place the Cambridge team was welcomed with an efficient and well run draw. Next the horses for the dressage phase were presented. These were exceedingly well groomed, with gleaming tack and white bandages. All horses looked forward going, supple and capable of working into a good outline, something we had all somewhat been missing at our BUCS fixtures.

The day ran with the first teams competing, followed by the seconds with dressage in the morning and show jumping after lunch. For both matches each rider was paired with someone from the opposing University, both riding identical tests on the same horse, with penalties being calculated for the lower scoring test, and the higher scorer being awarded zero. Both teams were well supported, with several parents making an appearance to watch this heated contest.

Dressage for the first team event was kicked off by an Oxford rider who seemed to struggle with their late recruited horse, an unsettled Cleo. Alice Watson (Captain) rode Cleo next, managing to calm her down, despite large vehicles doing their best to make Cleo leap into next week. Riders later found out that Cleo had never done a dressage test before, and this was actually her debut into the world of white boards and strict floor plans. Oxford used their home advantage well in this phase on the following 3 horses, as each rider seemed to know exactly the right buttons to press on their mounts. This gave Cambridge riders Steph Willis, Ginny Fellows and international show jumper, Clark Glasgow the unfortunate task of working out how to ride their horses in their brief 7 minute warm up. Following this phase Oxford’s firsts were in the lead on 16 penalties, only Watson gained 0 for Cambridge, leaving Cambridge on 64 penalties. Thus the Oxford firsts were in the lead by 48 points going into the afternoon.

Alice riding Cleo: Dressage phase

Next up were the second teams, riding the same horses in a similar format. Here Cambridge could use the knowledge gained by the first riders to counter some of the home advantage that Oxford had. Captain Alice Strang-Steel had the pleasure of a more relaxed Cleo, and rode a superb, accurate test. Ali Simon drew the same horse as Steph, and used her hot seat to create a fantastically forward test. Event rider Bridget Hipwell embraced her chance to ride a dressage test, performing her best so far this season after strict instructions to smile. Ollie Coombe-Tennant drew an unfortunately matched horse, allowing Oxford’s rider to showcase their well rehearsed, yet unusual, light seat and gain 0 penalties. The light blue-seconds really excelled in the dressage, with zero penalties for 3 riders including Strang-Steel, Simon and Hipwell. This left Cambridge on a huge lead to head into the jumping phase.

All riders helped build the jumps, and produced a technically challenging course over which all riders could be tested. International and well respected show jumper, Glasgow, led the Cambridge team around the course, offering fabulous advice on how to cope with the more subtle technical points. Subsequently Glasgow coached each rider in the warm up, filling each rider with confidence and bubbling excitement about the course ahead of them. This enabled the firsts to really challenge the dark side, and the seconds to further extend their lead.

Clark in his element: Jumping

For the firsts all riders seemed well matched to the horses they drew, giving an opportunity really give Oxford something to worry about. The horse demonstration gave Watson and Glasgow some food for thought as their mounts looked interesting. Oxford again started this phase of the competition. For Cambridge, Fellows was first up, riding a superb course on a speedy pony. Watson went next, prepared for a rather slower round with spurs and a stick. Needless to say Glasgow rode to perfection. Finally dressage lover Willis, was nearly converted to the world of jumping, loving every second of her time in the arena. Cambridge really excelled in this phase with all riders going clear, leaving 3 riders on scores of 0 and coming out with only 8 penalties to Oxfords 48.

The seconds were up next. With some of the horses tiring, brilliant horsemanship enabled these riders to keep the majority of fences up. Again Cambridge had Glasgow for advice in the warm up arena, giving the light blues an edge. Simon performed another notably speedy ‘eventing’ round. Again Cambridge dominated the jump with Strang-Steel, Simon and Hipwell receiving 0 penalties. Oxford were nowhere to be seen.

Sadly domination of the jumping was not quite enough to edge back the lead for the firsts, with Oxford winning by the narrow margin of 9 points, allowing Captain Wise to get her name onto the prestigious trophy. To put this into context a fence down cost 5 points! Individually Cambridge had some fantastic results with Captain Alice Watson 1st, Wise from Oxford 2nd, Fellows 3rd and Willis 4th.

Victorious 2nd team: B. Hipwell, A. Strang-Steel, A. Simon, O- Coombe-Tennant

The seconds won their match and the change to engrave a new trophy for the first time. Again individual placings were fantastic, with pentathlete Ali Simon 1st, Captain Strang-Steel 2nd and Hipwell 3rd.

From the left: C. Glasgow, V. Fellows, O. Coombe-Tennant, A. Strang-Steel, A. Watson, A. Simon, B. Hipwell, S. Willis.

Overall a fantastic day was had by all, and friendships were forged between the two teams. Thanks must of course be given where it is due and importantly we would like to thank Hall Place, the helpers and all of the supporters for making it such an enjoyable day. Thanks also to the judge for her enthusiasm, and to Charlotte Baker as the photographer. Finally thanks to the organiser and Oxford Captain, Susie Wise.

Report by Alice Watson