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Week 7 of last term saw the final qualifier round for the Equestrian Championship league, with the Lancaster girls making the journey down to Salford to compete for a place in the regional finals. Following a turbulent season with lots of ups and downs; including a scary trip to the hospital and a home victory, the A team was ready to show off their skills, prepared to beat the tough competition on the last round.
First off on the day was Bethany Cleaver, who had stepped in on short notice for Gabby Moorat who was out with an injury. Cleaver, normally on the B team, took to the challenge very well, riding a tidy and precise dressage round on her allocated horse, Billy. At competitions, riders are each allocated a horse provided by the host venue on a random basis, being judged against riders from the other teams riding the same horse.
Next up was team captain Hannah Yaqub, who rode a brilliant round receiving the highest marks on her difficult horse, followed by Hanna Stostad on Polly only a few points behind. Lancaster’s last rider was Megan Barrow who put in a great performance despite the horse being very tired after an arduous day. Yaqub was in the lead after the dressage round with all four riders receiving decent scores, putting Lancaster in a good position before the jumping phase. However the home team, Salford, were also doing well, taking advantage of knowing the horses beforehand.
Whilst getting ready for the jumping phase, Salford’s riding school realised that one of the horses could not adequately jump the course, which led to a long cold wait in a windy viewing area. Luckily the team team spirits were high, in no small part due to their helper and chef d’equipe, Connie O’Donnell, who was on hand to provide words of support and encouragement to the Lancaster girls.
When the time came for jumping, the team were excited to get going despite the course being considerably long. In the end, the riders all got on and did admirable rounds, especially captain Hannah Yaqub who again got the best score on her horse. No one had any major difficulties and enjoyed jumping the course, with Barrow looking very elegant on her tall bay thoroughbred; Cleaver guiding her pony round neatly; and Yaqub producing a strong effort on an equally strong horse. Three out of four riders got clear rounds, an impressive feat, but the rounds are also judged on style, keeping the suspense until the last moment when the scores are added up.
After a long tense hour, the winners were announced with Lancaster in first place. Yaqub’s efforts had got her the best mark and she deservedly won individually, with Barrow in fifth place. The overall league scores were added up and the Lancaster riders were delighted to have qualified for the regional finals in Yorkshire.
The regionals are this month and the team riders have been practising for the dressage test, getting ready to show off Lancaster in the best possible way; and hopefully the extra training and supported will help the Lancaster Equestrian team continue to excel not just at Bishop Burton College in April, but for the rest of the year.