Horse people are the same the world over: Who doesn’t admire a beautiful equine? And there’s nothing more English than sipping Pimm’s at a horsey event in the summer sunshine. With those things in mind, the Nob Hill Gazette flew to The Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting (June 21-24) at the All England Jumping Course in Hickstead in West Sussex during a glorious heatwave. The English countryside was spectacular, and one of the premier equestrian venues in the world set the stage for the 1,500 glossy horses showing in hundreds of classes.
Ringside for the historic and thrilling £100,000 Al Shira’aa Derby showjumping class on the final day, we also saw championships for driving ponies, show hunters, sidesaddle and native breeds of all sorts. We were lucky enough to catch up with several competitors with connections to the U.S. too, and asked them a few questions about the highest levels of International horse sports.
Jo Bates rode him in the BSPS
LeMieux Heritage Mountain and
This stunning dapple gray Connemara stallion, known as Rocky to his friends, qualified for the Horse of the Year Show and Olympia in London this year, so his career is going into orbit. His owner and breeder is Robbie Fallon of San Francisco.
What class did you show in today? The native breeds of ponies in the UK and Ireland are hugely popular, and we compete in the Mountain and Moorland classes where we show off our rugged good looks and friendly personalities.
Three words that best describe you? Proud, fun, and let’s face it — I’m a bit of a superstar!
How do you keep your tail so glowing white? I don’t! If it was up to me it’d be full of mud but my people are absolutely obsessed with washing me. The life of a show horse …
Ninkie de Vy Z
Andrew Kocher rode her in The Hickstead British Speed Derby
Kocher was the only American showjumper at Hickstead this year, and he ably represented the U.S. at the top level of the sport, partnering with Mandy Hall’s fiercely competitive mare, Ninkie de Vy Z, to attack one of the largest and fastest jumping classes in the world.
Why do you like showing here at Hickstead? The grass International arena is unique: The jumps are huge and often natural in style with lots of stone walls, banks and water jumps and the atmosphere is absolutely electric.
Describe yourself in one sentence: I’ve got gravel in my guts!
How did the 10’6” drop off the Derby Bank make you feel? At first I said, “Are you kidding, Andy? We could just go back the way we came up …” but then I realized he wanted me to kinda slide down it and jump the fence at the bottom … so I did it! I’m feeling pretty good about how I handled it.
Twitter and Tweet
Jeff Osborne drove them in the Osborne Refrigerators Double Harness Scurry
This pair of perky ponies are both of native breeds — a Dartmoor and a Welsh pony — and they compete in a nail-biting speed driving competition where they race through an obstacle course to the cheers of the crowds.
What’s your best quality as a team?
Compatibility — we like each other. We also like Mr. Osborne, so we try very hard for him. And lastly we have terrific stamina — no matter how long the track is, we keep going. We may be small, but we are mighty!
With names like Twitter and Tweet you boys must have a big social presence? We are huge on social. Huge. Check us out on Twitter at @osbornerefrig
Tell us about your driver. Mr. Osborne is 82 years old, but he competes with the best of them! He has a huge soft spot for Dartmoor ponies too – an endangered breed.
William Funnell rode him in the Al Shira’aa Derby
In a nail-biting finish, Will Funnell lifted the Boomerang Trophy after winning the show’s famous headline event — the Al Shira’aa Derby — for the fourth time, this year on the tall chestnut gelding Billy Buckingham, with one of just two clears in the first round and 4 faults in the jump off.
The Derby Bank – how did you approach it? Last year was the first time I saw it, and it made me a bit nervous at the time. This year I just popped down and got on with the job.
What about the other famous jumps on the course: The Devil’s Dike? The Open Ditch? And one of the largest water jumps in the world? They’re nothing to me. Well, I did put one toe in the water at the end there … allegedly!
What do you do in your spare time? I like to relax in my stable, or go for a stroll in the field. I’m a simple horse, really. After this I’m going to the pub …