Riding High: Forces Team Does Military Proud At Hickstead

The UK Armed Forces Equestrian Team has completed a highly successful first competition at the All England Jumping Championships...

The UK Armed Forces Equestrian Team has completed a highly successful first competition at the All England Jumping Championships.

The riders were there to gain valuable competition experience as they branch out into more civilian events.

The tournament at Hickstead in West Sussex sees hundreds of horses and amateur riders competing in a variety of categories. 

UK Armed Forces show jumping team

The fledgling UKAF team was formed less than a year ago, after the last inter services championships, with a view to widening their scope for competition into civilian events like this.

To help reach that goal one of the country's top coaches has been brought in. Christie Wright's strategy is to build on the basics of rhythm, balance and the canter rather than jumping technique. She says putting that into practice in competition adds a whole new dimension.

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Team manager Emily Cooper is a vastly experienced horsewoman, meanwhile, despite just starting out on her military career.

UK Armed Forces show jumping team Hickstead
Hickstead became the first permanent showground for equestrian sport in the country when it opened in 1960

When it came to the competition though, it was RAF Squadron Leader Elise Kidd, riding 'Villager', who came closest to the final.

She jumped an impressive 'double clear' round in qualifying, but with only 13 places available in the final her time was 19th quickest, meaning she just missed out.

The Royal Navy's Becca Brown, on 'Gibson', had an excellent championship, scoring a double clear in the preliminaries and just four faults in her qualifiers.

UK Armed Forces show jumping team
The UKAF team with Simon Bucks, CEO of the SSVC charity

Sophie Fuller, on 'Smiler', also did well, while the Army's Richard Raffel, riding 'Stan', entered the one metre jump category and produced an excellent round, despite their partnership being very new.

Christie Farren, on 'Marley', came close but had four faults in qualifying.

The team went into the consolation finals at the weekend, where the riders all did well - but the most important thing was getting that experience they can build on for future competitions.

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