H&M day at Olympia, The London International Horse Show, will be memorable as a great day for British Show Jumping, but the very last class fell to a Dutch rider, Harrie Smolders, who proved that the patient approach can win the day when capturing the H&M Ivy Stakes.
Earlier, Scott Brash and Ben Maher scored a British one-two in the Longines FEI World Cup™ qualifier presented by H&M, 12-year-old Madison Heath won the H&M Mistletoe Stakes and Anna Power partnered Annie Gibson from Northern Ireland to take the H&M Pony Club Mini-Major. To top things off, Olympic champion Nick Skelton scored a great result when finishing third in BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Madison Heath made the most of her last ride on Red Alert III by taking the H&M Mistletoe Stakes for 128cm ponies with a superbly fast and thrilling round.
“I just thought ‘go for it’,” said Madison, 12, who just missed out on clinching this title in both 2014 and 2015. “I was a bit wary of the double of uprights, as I had had them down in the past, but I trusted her to do it.”
The seasoned mare has already been sold to international show jumper Geoff Luckett for his children. “We have had her for five years, with my sister Bobbie riding her before me,” said Cheshire-based Madison. “She has never let us down.”
International rider Laura Renwick was watching and praised the youngster. “I have ridden with Madison in relays before and she’s very competitive,” said Laura. “Today she rode with maturity, used her head, and was absolutely spot on.”
Ponies took to the stage earlier in the day, too, in the H&M Pony Club Mini-Major, a relay class in which international riders are paired up with their under-12 counterparts.
Britain’s Anna Power (Chesterfield Z) and 11-year-old Annie Gibson (Lisbox Black Magic), a member of the Iveagh branch of the Pony Club, bettered seven rival pairings to take the top spot.
“It’s the first time I have been to Olympia and it’s absolutely amazing,” said Annie, who lives near Belfast. “Anna told me to go in and just have fun, which is what I wanted to do, and, once I was in there, I just went for it.”
Harrie Smolders was a member of the Netherlands team at the Rio Olympic Games, but this was his first Olympia win. When his four rivals in the jump-off all faulted, a steady clear was all that was required to lift first prize. “My horse is not so fast, so it was the only way to win!” he joked.
He has only been riding his winning mount, the nine-year-old mare Corrada, for two months. “This was a nice competition to win with a new horse – I’ve only had her for two months,” he explained. “She is quite green but a horse can learn a lot here and she is very calm.”
Kevin Staut finished second for France on Unna de Kerglenn with Michael Whitaker third on JB’s Hot Stuff.
Swedish rider Malin Baryard-Johnsson continues to head the H&M leading Rider of the Show table by 17 points from the crowd-pleasing Italian rider Lorenzo De Luca. Ben Maher and Laura Renwick are third and fourth for Britain.
Other highlights of the day included The Kennel Club Large Novice Dog Jumping Grand Prix, which was won by Bonny Busby and Nedlo Moon Lighting and The Kennel Club Large Novice Dog Agility Finals, in which Lee Windeatt and Mendipstar Coy Oaty Snuggly sped to victory by over two seconds from their rivals.