What does it take to be a South African Rider’s Champion?
In little less than 2 weeks we will have a newly crowned SA Rider’s Champion for 2013. This coveted title is aspired to by many of our top riders and the unique format of the event produces riding of the finest calibre. It is a competition which showcases rider feel, fitness, adaptability and nerve. The winning rider will have to be cool under pressure and rely on the countless hours of experience and solid preparation to produce the best score on the day.
Of course this event is the culmination of a week’s worth of tough competition in the show arena. The field of top class riders will be whittled down to the top four qualifiers based on the best performances over three qualifying competitions. The scoreboard will then be reset to zero, so that the best qualifier has no greater chance of winning than the fourth placed rider. Each rider will first compete on his own mount and subsequently each of the other three horses. The winner being the rider with the lowest number of penalties after all four rounds of jumping. Can rider instinct, skill, training and experience produce almost instant partnerships with three new horses sufficient to jump faultless rounds over a short but testing course?
And what kind of horse will emerge as champion on the day? The effect of increasingly sophisticated and scientific breeding programs coupled with the importation of quality horses has produced a growing number of talented jumpers in South Africa. But, it is still certain that the top four horses won’t look very much alike or even canter and jump in the same style.
Last year Anne-Marie Esslinger’s sensitive and tall gelding Alessio and Govett Triggoll’s small fireball of a mare Louisa made a striking contrast to Paige Shiller’s more deliberate Midgard Glamour and George Phillipedes’ brave and chunky stallion Alchemy’s Radermus. Each Rider’s Championship has seen an equally physically diverse foursome of horses go into the final day of competition.
What is certain though, is that this year’s top horses will all have enough of that great jumper quality referred to as scope – the physical ability to jump high and wide. The horses that in the past have walked away with the best horse title at this competition have all had the ability to make jumping even the biggest fences seem effortless.
Boldness and power were essential characteristics of top show jumpers a couple of decades ago. But, coupled with the ever more technical tests set by today’s course designers and the light material used for the construction of jumps it can safely be said that carefulness has rocketed to the top of the list of vital qualities for a champion show jumper.
Today, more than ever before, it takes a truly talented sport horse to rise to the top. The real superstars combine all the traits: power, experience, a willingness to work with their rider and physical soundness, all tossed together with a generous helping of that elusive something many riders refer to as class.
Just as with top sportsmen, this element of in-born character can perhaps be best described as the honesty and willingness to give what it takes – especially when it counts most. It is what separates the true legends from all the other talented jumpers you see in the show ring.
I will bet that this year’s SA Rider’s Championship, like so many before, will showcase one or two shining examples of just what can be accomplished by a rider and his horse when both is blessed with that touch of class.
Be a part of the action and watch our top athletes compete for this prestigious title at Burlington Stables from the 30th of October – 3rd of November. PLOT 49, TROTTING CLOSE, SUN VALLEY, MIDRAND (GPS: S 25 ° 56’ 55” / E 28 ° 4’ 24”).
Visit www.burlington.co.za for more information on this top class livery yard and show holding venue.
Timetables and schedules can be viewed on www.sashowjumping.co.za.
The 2012 Rider’s Champion – Govett Triggol.
Recent winner of the Polokwane Discovery Grand Prix. Can he make it two in a row?