Photo courtesy of Inquire Media
Coming from someone who attended almost every event at Varsity, Equestrian was unquestionably one of the most entertaining. I have always admired the sport, but, in all honesty, I never truly understood or took the time to watch it in all its glory. Thankfully, Varsity changed this and I now call myself a fan.
The competition differed from other Varsity bouts, as all of those who competed were non-BUCS performing athletes. The UKC team consisted of eleven riders in total who split themselves across the two events - dressage and jumping.
Varsity began on an uncharacteristically sunny day for Kent, providing ideal spectator and rider conditions. Dressage was the first event of the day and UKC riders Chloe, Alia, Braeden, Abi, Eleanor and Mitsy all took to the arena to test patterns of movements in walk, trot and canter. For dressage, there was an Introductory A test, Preliminary 12 and Preliminary 14. A few minor errors kept the competition close between the two universities. A noticeably frustrated CCCU rider finished the event visibly upset about the few mistakes made. Despite this, the competition remained close. The tight competition was difficult to call, but the results were in. CCCU finished the first event on top with very few penalty points separating the two.
After a short break, the jumping section commenced. On this occasion, Hannah, Heather, Swann, Libby, Laden and Mitsy (again) were to saddle up and compete. This competition also had three disciplines. The three jumping classes were, cross poles, 40cm and 50cm.
As a novice to the sport, it became immediately apparent that the jumps were a significant step up in danger. Yet, the calm and collected UKC team appeared unphased by something I can only describe as a terrifyingly impressive feat. Christ Church riders appeared to share my nervousness, as a last-minute change forced a reluctant CCCU rider to step up and take the place of teammate. Yet, the competition continued and it was a marvel to watch.
Kent’s first set of riders jumped with no major mistakes or events. However, this was short-lived as the first rider was thrown from their horse in the warm-up. The Christ Church rider was warming up and preparing for the second round. When approaching her final practice jump, the horse cleared the poles but upon landing became agitated. The CCCU rider was unable to cling on and fell with a chorus of tense gasps to accompany her fall. Unharmed but a little shaken, the C4 rider climbed straight back onto complete her jumps. Still affected by the event, she unfortunately went on to make a jump in the wrong order, immediately disqualifying her from the competition and giving CCCU 50 penalty points. “They’ve won” lamented a Christ Church supporter as the round closed.
The final discipline began and Kent was now in the most comfortable position they had been the entire day. Little did anyone expect that the day would take yet another turn. Misty was the second rider up in the final group. She appeared to be the most comfortable on Sterling of the day. A CCCU rider had previously struggled to contain his excitement, yet, Misty looked confident and in control. This continued through the warm-up and into the official event. On the same jump that the C4 rider fell, Misty approached the jump beautifully and again on the landing Sterling began to buck and jerk across the arena. Mist held on but was violently thrown off narrowly missing the fence. Sterling, clearly distressed, began to charge in circles. This only stopped when the owner calmly walked into the arena, raised an arm silently and as if by some form of horse magic Sterling halted and was led away. Unfortunately, for Misty and through no fault of her own, her day ended with a trip to A&E. Misty eventually got up with an admirable display of courage and resilience as she walked out of the arena smiling and holding what turned out to be a fractured wrist. As she was unable to complete the jumps, Kent was then delt a 50 point penalty, bringing the competition neck and neck once more.
To follow such an event would have scared those of us who are unacquainted with the Equestrian world, yet Kent continued with poise and confidence. The final rider gave a stunning performance with few errors made on the most difficult jumps of the day and closed an exhilarating competition beautifully.
After a day that was too close to call, the final scores were in. Kent won with an impressive 118 points to CCCU 144!
Overall, this was perhaps the most thrilling Varsity event I had attended all week. The experience was further enhanced by the welcoming nature of all those in attendance, both UKC and C4 alike. Since watching the competition I have enthusiastically encouraged anyone to make the trip to Polo Farm to experience it for yourself. You will be met with a rollercoaster of an event, a display of impressive skill and marvel at the beauty of such a potentially dangerous sport. It is an awkward place to get to if you do not have the means to get there by car. However, if you do, this is one Varsity event you do not want to miss!