Joint winners were fast becoming a theme at the Horse of the Year Show and the Five Fence Challenge was another with Robert Whitaker again at the forefront to share the honours with fellow Brit Emma Stoker.
Five of the 20 starters were left in the final round and it seemed it could have been a step too far as the first three toppled the now enormous Abbey Road oxer – Puissance winners Guy Williams and Mr Blue Sky UK, The Netherlands’ Jan-Hendrik Schuttert on Balboa HS and Belgium’s Arnaud Doem with Le Miguet De La Ferme Du Parc all going out after faulting at the third fence of five.
But Emma Stoker came in and showed her worth and talent on the nine-year-old Kontador VDM to jump a foot-perfect round with the oxers standing at 1.75m and the final vertical topping 1.85m.
Last-to-go Robert Whitaker also jumped a clean round with the Verdi 12-year-old Cash Sent to claim a £3,710 share of the winnings. It adds to a great show already for Robert – joint winner of the Puissance with Guy Williams, outright winner of the Accumulator on new ride Dekato and second in the Take-your-own-Line with Catwalk.
Emma was overwhelmed.
“I’ve never jumped a fence like that in my life; I’m glad I didn’t know the heights before I went in. I’ve only ridden this horse for six weeks and the biggest he’d jumped before this was 1.40m – what an achievement.” said a shocked but delighted Emma, who had decided to enter the Eldorado Van De Zeshoek/For Pleasure gelding in this class as “He’s been fantastic all week.
“He’s only nine but he’s so careful and wants to go to the fences; he couldn’t wait to jump and that gives me so much confidence. He did his job and I did mine but did I think he had it in him to jump that big – No!”
Emma admits her life was “turned upside down” two months ago when her former boss Bob Young and his family decided to sell all the horses she had been competing so successfully. The majority of horses were sold to Axel Verlooy and Emma’s job prospects took a sudden upturn – six weeks ago she started working at Axel’s Grobbendonk base in the Belgian province of Antwerp alongside Harrie Smolders and Jos Verlooy.
“It’s fantastic there, so relaxed and easy-going but I’ve learned so much already, just even watching Harrie and Jos work their horses,” said Emma, who has jumped at HOYs previously in ponies and young riders – “But this was my first International show here.”
Text and Photos © Jumping Around