AFTER managing to escape the worst of the weather at home near Barnsley, Ellen Whitaker is going to be hard at work for the next few days, preparing her horses for her favourite event, the Royal International Horse Show at Olympia next week.
"I've been away competing and then I've been in London doing some Christmas shopping, so I missed most of the snow," said Ellen.
Now back at the family farm, Ellen, 24, will be putting in some serious practice, particularly with her Puissance horse, Ladina B. It is very much a family affair with father Steven training Ellen and her three brothers, Joe, Thomas and Donald, as well as competing himself.
"I love going to Olympia because of the atmosphere and it's always good to be in front of a home crowd," said Ellen.
She will be taking her three top horses to the event, CS Online, Equimax Ocolado and Ladina B plus possibly a new horse. "We have two new horses arriving from Sweden and one of them is really talented, I'm very excited about that."
Ellen's well-known speed horse, Kanselier, jumped at his last Horse of the Year Show this year and is now retired. The 18-year-old is suffering from damage to the ligaments of one of his legs and would not have been fit enough to compete at Olympia. The horse first hit the spotlight with Ellen when she was 16 and they qualified for Olympia. Kanselier won Speed Horse of the Year twice at HOYS and this year he finished on a high note by winning the Xerox Special Events Services Cup speed class. Ellen says she will miss him but he deserves to retire. "He's out in the field every day now and enjoying his retirement."
She was on top form at the Horse of the Year Show, particularly in the exciting Puissance.
Ellen, riding Ladina B, and Tina Fletcher, with Promised Land, jumped five clear rounds to tie for first place, clearing the wall at 7ft 2in to the amazement of the crowd. Tina Fletcher, who has also had an excellent year, is among an impressive line-up of leading riders who will be competing at Olympia next week.
Another highlight for Ellen this year was winning the British Open Show Jumping Championships. Riding Equimax Ocolado, she beat reigning champion Robert Whitaker, her cousin, in a dramatic finish.
After Olympia, which runs from December 14-20, Ellen's main horses will be ready for a break and she is looking forward to working with the two new horses, getting to know them and preparing for her goal of riding at the 2012 Olympics. She just missed out on selection for the Beijing Olympics after Locarno went lame.
Some of the world's top riders will be competing at Olympia, including France's Kevin Staut, currently the world No 1 in the Rolex rankings. Among the British entries are Michael, John and Robert Whitaker; Britain's No 1 and 2, Ben Maher and Guy Williams; Will Funnell; Peter Charles; Tim Stockdale; Robert Smith; Scott Brash; Laura Renwick and David McPherson.
It is the best show-jumping line-up Olympia has seen in a decade, according to event director Simon Brooks-Ward.
Dedicated sisters take special award
THE flourishing Ilkley and District Riding Association held its awards evening recently which was attended by 200 people.
There were 44 champion winners from numerous classes, ranging from show-jumping to tack and turnout, lead rein, ridden hunters, ex-racehorse and veteran horse and pony.
Awards were also made to the overall champions and these went to: junior show-jumping, Tabby Bentley with Teddy; senior show-jumping, Zoe Woof with Felinfach Charles; supreme working hunter, Erica Chadwick with Bunbury Conquest; 12 years and under, Sarah Heseltine and Parisian Gold; 18 years and over, Janet Walsh and Storm.
Two further trophies went to winners selected by the committee. Sophie Fawcett, aged five and her pony Kes won the Biscuit Memorial trophy for a pony of special merit – Kes having proved to be the star of many a fancy dress competition.
The Endeavour trophy, for the member who has shown the most effort and determination through the season, went to two sisters this year, Rachel and Natalie O'Shea.
The pair, aged 15 and 12, impressed the committee with their dedication which included hacking to and from the show, a journey which takes them at least an hour both ways.
The Association is particularly keen to encourage young riders, many of whom go on to compete at county level and at shows such as the Royal International and the Horse of the Year Show.
Former Cock o' the North winner at the Great Yorkshire Show, Laura Stephenson, started out on the lead rein at the Association's events.
Harriet leads the way as young prospects chase top prizes
TWENTY-FOUR of the brightest young names in show-jumping will compete in the Team Murka and World Class Programme Under-23 British Championship final at Olympia next week.
Riders must accumulate league points from three qualifying competitions and additional riders also qualify from the Young Rider European team. Harriet Nuttall topped the league points table after winning the final qualifying competition at Addington Equestrian Centre and a fifth place at Aintree International, with Abbie Squires, Tim Page and George Whitaker with second and joint third places, respectively.
Competitors also include William Whitaker and Matt Sampson, who are World Class Programme riders, plus Donald Whitaker and Joe Clayton.
Competing in this class is valuable for these young riders as there is a prize fund of 10,000 and training vouchers ranging from 200 to 800 are awarded to the top eight-placed riders. There is also a Style prize, with the winner receiving 1,500 towards the purchase of a saddle.
OLIVER TOWNEND and show-jumper Geoff Billington will be back on the road with their Champions Tour in January. The evening includes demonstrations and tips on schooling your horse, as well as plenty of banter from the two riders. Details at www.thechampionstour.co.uk.