Local Yorkshire rider Holly Woodhead has won her first three-day-event by a huge margin, taking out the Bishop Burton u25 CCI3* in style at the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.
Riding DHI Lupison, the Wiltshire-based rider led from start to finish; adding nothing to an impressive dressage score of 33.0 – a winning margin of more than 11 penalties.
The win is Woodhead’s first-ever three-day victory and Bramham is now confirmed as her favourite venue which will always hold a special place in her heart, having been a visitor since the age of nine. Victory was also poignant as the horse was owned by her grandfather who sadly died last week.
A stunning performance in the dressage set her up well but the rider has a strong grounding in the discipline, having represented Britain at the Pony European Championships in pure Dressage. A faultless cross-country round on Saturday extended her advantage.
When nearest rival Dani Evans riding Smart Time lowered a pole, Woodhead was given the luxury of a two-fence cushion. “I cantered in and just knew I wanted to jump clear,” she said. DHI Lupison showed no signs of the rigors of Saturday and jumped an immaculate round, giving every fence plenty of room. As the young rider cantered to the finish, the crowd erupted to signal the victory. Evans also secured third place with her 2013 runner-up, Raphael II. Millie Dumas and Artistiek pulled up to fourth spot and fifth place went to Emily King and Brookleigh.
A surprised Woodhead said: “Yesterday I admitted that I’d never felt so nervous but today I was surprisingly calmer today. I was really pleased with him; he jumped exceptionally and felt like he wasn’t going to touch a thing. He tried his hardest and now we have our first three-day win; I still can’t quite believe it and I think it will take a long while to sink in. It’s my grandad’s funeral on Monday and I can go there with a smile on my face. He was certainly looking down on me today.”
Evans was proud of her two rides, having had a tough start to the season when her yard was essentially locked down following an outbreak of the highly contagious equine virus Strangles and the 23-year-old thought her season was at an end before it had even begun. Even when she was cleared, she found herself struggling for form at the big occasions so to have two horses in the top three shows her resilience.
“Both the horses have been ‘on it’ all week which makes my job easier and I couldn’t be happier with them. I walked the (show jumping) course and it was big, square and technical … which didn’t suit me! But they both jumped really well; I’m cross with the two time penalties on Raphael and the fence down on Smart Time was totally my fault. If it was going to be anyone to beat me, I couldn’t be happier that it was Holly.”
Both riders were quick to thank the help provided by the World Class programme and in particular Yogi Breisner, Gill Watson and Peter Murphy.
Woodhead has her sights on a place in the British team for this year’s Young Rider European Championships in Poland while Evans is hopeful of securing one of the 12 spots on offer for the Senior squad at the European Championships at Blair Castle in September.