2016 Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials

Nicola Wilson

Nicola Wilson - Credit: Archant

There was added pressure for some riders at Bramham this year as they aimed to qualify for the Olympic team. Words by Winnie Murphy

The Bramham competitions attracted good crowds

The Bramham competitions attracted good crowds - Credit: Joan Russell

This year’s Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials was nothing short of spectacular. Four amazing days, four tense competitions, four worthy winners, all watched by a 56,500-strong crowd. There was added excitement, and pressure, with selection for the Rio Olympics riding on their Bramham performance for some.

In the Equi-Trek CCI3* New Zealand rider Andrew Nicholson scored his third Bramham win with Deborah Sellar’s nine-year-old Jet Set IV. That’s pretty special on its own. But what makes it truly amazing is the fact that this was Andrew’s first attempt at a three day event since his life changing accident at Gatcombe Park last August. Just a matter of months ago, it was touch and go whether or not Andrew would walk again, let alone ride.

‘I’ve been away for a few months and to win here after the absence feels great,’ said Andrew. ‘It’s been such a team effort to come this far. It’s touching – the crowd here at Bramham are knowledgeable horse people. You feel they appreciate when you do a good job.’

Tom McEwen took his second Bramham title in a tough final phase for the young riders contesting the conclusion of the Bishop Burton College U25 CCI*** with no clear rounds in the show jumping. It was an inspiring win for 2013 winner as he could afford two fences down in the show jumping ring and just rolled a pole to finish on 46.8 penalties aboard Frank and Jane Inn’s Toledo De Kerser. ‘He’s a real good horse and really deserves it,’ said a thrilled Tom. ‘He’s a very exciting future prospect.’

British ladies lined up on the podium of the British Equestrian Trade Association CIC*** section, cementing Sussex rider Gemma Tattersall’s current peak of top form, she took the title on Christopher Stone’s 12-year-old mare Chico Bella P. A nerve-wracking final phase of showjumping in the electric atmosphere of the Equi-Trek Arena proved clear rounds and kicking on for a tight time were essential to remain in the top spots of this hotly contested class.

The remaining two spots were filled by team stalwarts Tina Cook and Pippa Funnell. Tina rode Billy the Red while Pippa partnered Carol Toliver’s grey Billy the Biz by Cevin Z. Could this signal an all-female team for Rio?

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The inaugural Event Rider Masters leg at Bramham proved a popular addition. Dubbed the Twenty 20 of eventing, the competition is a shortened version with added excitement of reverse order running, live streaming, top riders and a rich prize pot. Finishing atop the podium was ‘one in a billion’ rider Alex Hua Tian from China. Last to go in the cross country as he led after dressage and showjuming, Alex rode with great composure and tact, taking extra care to keep the confidence of the sometimes quirky ‘Don’. As they headed up the final pull to home, it looked like they had time to spare and once safely over the final fence, Alex punched the air jubilantly.

He said: ‘I can’t believe it. We were dead last at Chatsworth a few weeks ago and to be top of the podium having won now is just extraordinary. He’s such a talent and it’s just amazing. This is such a great result for me and ERM.’

Nottinghamshire-based Irishman Richard Howley claimed the weekend’s top show jumping prize, the Wetherby Skip Services Grand Prix riding his own Chinook.

Date for the diary – Equi-Trek Bramham Horse Trials 2017 –June 8th -June 11th and for full results go to bramham-horse.co.uk