Willow Banks puissance show draws top names

Sammi Hardy on her way to victory in the novice puissance as the rain pours Picture: Lew's Photography EMN-180919-172832002
Sammi Hardy on her way to victory in the novice puissance as the rain pours Picture: Lew's Photography EMN-180919-172832002

Willow Banks’ annual Puissance Show attracted a high-calibre field of professional show jumpers who served up some sensational competition.

The Claxby equestrian centre also featured dressage on both days of the show for the first time.

Joint winners Chelsea Skelton and Joss Williams in front of the 1.92m wall they both cleared EMN-180919-172453002

Joint winners Chelsea Skelton and Joss Williams in front of the 1.92m wall they both cleared EMN-180919-172453002

Poor weather throughout Saturday did not dampen the spirit of both competitors and spectators, with Felicity Gardner taking the overall dressage prize.

A highly-competitive 120cm speed class saw 14 professional combinations step forward.

Leicestershire rider Joss Williams and Culmore Prospect set a blistering early pace and they proved unbeatable, with Joss scooping the top prize of a fine dining experience, just ahead of runner-up Lauren Appleyard on the talented Jolly Boy.

The Thomas Bell Novice Puissance followed which drew an unprecedented 18 novice combinations to take on the Lego wall.

Harley Snell competes in the inaugural Willow Bank dressage test Picture: Lew's Photography EMN-180919-172819002

Harley Snell competes in the inaugural Willow Bank dressage test Picture: Lew's Photography EMN-180919-172819002

Five competitors made it through to round five when the wall stood at 1.40m, a height only two would clear to set up a final round shoot-out at 1.46m.

The wall proved one brick too far for local rider Sue Evans and the gutsy cob Connor, but Nottingham rider Sammi Hardy and Herbert then cleared the wall with ease to take the victory.

A good crowd gathered in the pouring rain to watch the big competition – the Rase Veterinary Practice Puissance 2018.

A high-quality field of 14 competitors attempted to better the previous record of 1.74m , with more than £80,000 in prize money having previously been won in this class.

Round four saw the previous Willow Banks record smashed by four horses who all cleared 1.81m.

In round five, local professional rider Chelsea Skelton was first to clear 1.92m - the height of a transit van – and did it with ease, but Dianna Johnson and Royal Cavalier were eliminated after the unluckiest of touches.

Bermundan Kyle Hassle was next up and just clipped a brick with a faint touch, but final pairing Joss Williams and Culmore Prospect cleared the wall with ease to share first place.

“It’s such a brilliant show to come to,” Joss said.

“Sox (Culmore Prospect) absolutely loves Willow Banks and has won the puissance three times, each year jumping better and better.”

Chelsea added: “There was a brilliant atmosphere, even with the terrible weather a lot of people came out to watch.

“My next aim with this horse is to break the 2m record at the festival at Arena UK, and then possibly the Horse of the Year Show.”

Sunday produced some great performances in the dressage from Felicity Gardner, clinching the intro A class, and local rider Kelly Lodge on Mischief.

The big jumping class of the day was the Road to Vienna Final with a holiday in Vienna up for grabs.

All competitors had qualified for this class throughout the year, eight going through to the final after three rounds.

Georgie Marriot, riding Smokey, set a great clear in a blistering time which proved unbeatable.

“It is also extra special as Smokey is up for sale so it will probably be my last competition on him,” said Georgie.

Willow Banks’ next big event is on September 27, including a 1.40m, which last time attracted Michael Whitaker.