Georgie Rockingham wins the Derbyshire Life trophy at the 2018 Chatsworth Horse Trials

Georgie Rockingham

Georgie Rockingham - Credit: Archant

Hard work paid off for Georgie Rockingham and her horse ‘September Song’ at this year’s Chatsworth Horse Trials, as Ellie Fells discovers.

Georgie Rockingham

Georgie Rockingham - Credit: Archant

For 23-year-old primary school teacher and event rider Georgie Rockingham, winning the Derbyshire Life trophy at Chatsworth Horse Trials was the icing on the cake at the end of a successful day. The trophy is awarded to the highest placed local rider, and Derbyshire born and bred Georgie put in a fantastic performance to secure her the top spot. Her team-mate was ‘September Song’, also known fondly as ‘Sonnie’.

The competition, which is held annually at Chatsworth House in May, did not begin as planned. ‘We got in the horse box ready to go, drove about 200 metres down the road and the dog was sick all down my leg! I thought to myself, “Oh no, this is going to be terrible!”’ laughs Georgie. Fortunately she was able to put this sticky start behind her, riding a high-scoring dressage test that proved her winter training had been worthwhile. The show-jumping phase followed and although Georgie and Sonnie knocked the first fence down, the rest of their round was foot-perfect. The final test of the riders was the cross-country course, with Sonnie rising to the challenge.

Georgie says, ‘He was mega, an absolute machine,’ she beams. She also praises the quality of the course at Chatsworth, commenting: ‘I thought it rode really well, but there were a fair number of fences that asked questions of the competitors. The organisers had done a really great job with the ground, too’.

Her strong performance meant that she finished in 20th place, earning her the Derbyshire Life trophy. ‘It was a surprise actually because I thought there would probably be people above me,’ Georgie reflects. ‘I was thrilled! A lot of my family had come to support me on the day, so it was really nice to be presented with it in front of them.’

Georgie Rockingham

Georgie Rockingham - Credit: Archant

Chatsworth Horse Trials is a particularly special event for Georgie, and competing there was once the stuff of dreams. ‘It’s one of my favourite events,’ she says. ‘My parents used to take us to watch when I was a child, and I always aspired to ride there.’ Being located only around 20 miles north of Georgie’s yard in Mercaston, Chatsworth is very much home turf. ‘I feel very lucky to have a big international event just down the road,’ she says. Chatsworth is a popular competition venue among the wider equestrian community, and is renowned for its vibrant, family-friendly atmosphere.

The event helps to put Derbyshire on the map as a haven for horse riders, and the county’s rolling hills and spectacular scenery make it the perfect base for Georgie. ‘We have amazing hacking where we are. It’s so lovely just to be able to open the back gate and be in the countryside, rather than having to ride along busy roads,’ she says. Some of the best equestrian centres in the country are also within easy reach of Georgie’s yard. ‘We’re really lucky to be so central to a lot of the big venues,’ she comments.

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Georgie had previously won the Derbyshire Life trophy back in 2011 with ‘Cut to the Chase’, the horse that took her up through the levels and is now enjoying retirement. ‘September Song’, her winning partner this year, was given to Georgie as an 18th birthday present. Since then the two have built up a formidable partnership: ‘We’ve done everything with Sonnie from scratch, but I’ve known him for so long now that we know each other’s quirks. I know how to get the best out of him and he knows how to get the best out of me!’

Many hours of hard work are put in during the run-up to a competition. Regular lessons with Jeanette Brakewell and Ruth Edge are an important part of Georgie’s preparation, but these must fit around her job as a primary school teacher. As a result, the rider has a packed schedule. ‘It’s tricky, but I try to keep my work at work – the horses are like an escape from the day job I suppose.’

Despite the demands on her time, the horses have never become a chore. ‘They are like my babies,’ Georgie laughs. ‘They get loads of cuddles and treats!’ She also credits her success to the help of her family, and praises her parents. ‘I couldn’t do what I do without their support. My mum and dad are absolutely incredible.’

The future looks bright for Georgie: she has big plans for ‘September Song’, and has another promising young horse, ‘Katrina’, going from strength to strength. However, her success is down to a team effort, with Georgie, her family and her horses all sharing a strong bond. As she concludes: ‘Teamwork makes the dream work!’

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