Horse of the Year Show spectators were treated to a bumper exhibition of world-class jumping as international competitions began at Birmingham’s Genting Arena. The Grandstand Media Five Fence Challenge features a course of five fences that increase in height with each round to a maximum of five. A fence down or refusal means horse and rider cannot compete any further.
A thrilling three-way tie ensued between British riders Holly Smith and Helen Tredwell, plus Irish star Shane Breen, who agreed between them to share the spoils after round four, a course that culminated in them jumping a fence of 1.80 metres (5ft, 11 inches).
Shane, who rode for Ireland at the Nations Cup final in Barcelona last weekend, was in masterful form on 11-year-old stallion Can Ya Makan, while Holly on Hearts Destiny also hit the heights, along with Helen and Sebasatian VII as they all powered over some huge obstacles.
“It was a great class,” Shane said. “I think we did the right thing to divide the prize. We’ve got two more days of jumping, so we wanted to leave something in the tank. I am delighted with my horse. It was his first show since Dublin in August, and he delivered a great performance.”
Buckinghamshire-based Helen continued Sebastian VII’s run of success in the Five Fence Challenge, joining Shane and Holly in each collecting just over £3,000.
“I have been a joint-winner and finished equal third in this competition, so it is a favourite class of ours,” Helen said. “You have just got to get into a good rhythm, and you need a horse that can jump a big fence. No-one was keen to go again in a fifth round, so it was better all round that we had an equal first.”
And Holly, from Leicestershire, added: “He [Hearts Destiny] is a very novice horse, it is his first Horse of the Year Show and it was his first class of the week, so I thought it would be ideal to get some experience in there.
“It is quite an unusual class – it is the first time I have done one of them – and I suppose the trick to it is to try and keep enough tempo up to give them the power to jump the fences and not rush it. And you also need a very scopey horse with a lot of ability.”