Ruth and Amber now on course for Windsor

BURGIE International Three-Day Event was the fulfilment of a dream for Ruth Dickens and Old Springfield Amber. They finished 57th out of 89 competitors with a qualifying score which can take them on to their next challenge, possibly Royal Windsor next season. Equestrian Post has been following their journey from grass-roots eventers to taking part in what many amateurs can really only daydream about.

Ruth, a member of South Yorkshire Police mounted section, only took up eventing at 30. The journey to the famous Scottish horse trials took them 12 hours.

The pair had a tense but accurate dressage and then faced cross-country day and the final day of show-jumping.

They rode roads and tracks on time and then faced the steeplechase.

Said Ruth: "Steeplechase was quite deep going and many competitors were having time penalties. Not Amber, who has a heart as big as a bucket and pistons in her rear end that propel her at a great speed.

"We came in under time and had to spend nearly 1km slowing down. Phase C roads and tracks is done at trot with some walk. Amber was a little excitable and we came in about five minutes under time to the 10-minute box.

On the cross-country, facing the biggest fences they had ever seen together, the pair rose to the challenge. "I needn't have worried about her confidence. Such a big-hearted mare, as the challenges got harder, she rose to each one. I even started to enjoy it!"

Near the end of the course, Amber started to tire. "At the fourth from home at an angled treble fence we had a run out at the second part.

"She didn't see it and I had no muscles left to direct her. Anyway, we cantered a circle and continued, completing the final three fences with a dead weight on my arms, but clear and fast.

On show-jumping day the pair were the first of the day to make the time, though they had penalties.

"We finished with dressage penalty of 69.4, cross-country of 20 fence penalties and 22 time penalties, collected 16 show-jumping penalties for a total of 127.4.

"Our placing was 57th out of 89 competitors. We are delighted as there were so many experienced competitors from many nations, including Olympic riders.

"I would say that I would be the least experienced competitor there, having only completed 10 Novice Events. The best news of all is that we achieved a qualifying score which is our first step to qualifying for our first CCI**, such as Windsor three-day event. As I said last year, we all need a dream."

STILL they startle horses. Most fans have got over England's ousting from Euro 2004 but their flags seem rooted to their cars.

The fluttering things do bother some horses and the sound they make, like cracking whips, don't help people out hacking.

What next? Perhaps ranks of spandex-suited cyclists shouting "Henman, Henman" or some other annoying lost cause.

Whitaker back on board for Athens

ANY unpleasantness in the ranks about Nick Skelton and Robert Smith being selected for Athens seems to have been smoothed over after a meeting at the headquarters of the British Show Jumping Association.

Michael Whitaker met BSJA chairman John Jacks, international committee chairman David Broome, team manager Derek Ricketts and technical advisors Graham Fletcher and John Roberts at Stoneleigh.

A BSJA statement afterwards said : "The meeting resolved any concerns Michael Whitaker had relating to the selection and he will travel to Athens, if required, as reserve for Great Britain.

"The British Show Jumping Association has operated an open and transparent selection policy which enabled open discussions to take place."

Meanwhile, our Olympic pair have a busy week ahead competing at the Geesteren CSI four-star show in the Netherlands.

Nick Skelton's Olympic mount Arko III, on which he won the British Open Championship at Sheffield, will be in action. He also has Russel and Pandur in the lists.

Robert Smith has his Athens horse Mr Springfield for the show as well as Kalusha, Marius Claudius and Jerry Maguire.

They are joined by John Whitaker with Lord Z, Gem of India and Irco Miro G, and Damien Charles with Hugo du Heup and Naf Naf II.

Great day for Goodyears as Jessica makes her mark

YOUNG Jessica Goodyear stood between two of the country's top show riders to take the reserve champion award in a new competition – the TopSpec Supreme Ridden Championship at the Northern Horse Show.

The 1,250 champion's purse went to well-known professional Alastair Hood and the hack champion Royal Trooper, currently unbeaten this season, with third place going to regular Northern Horse visitor Katie Moore, riding Vanessa Ramm's six-year-old Riding Horse champion Sirius.

More than 20 competitors came forward at the end of the day at Wetherby to compete for the record 2,000 prize fund.

Nicola Tyler of TopSpec said: "We decided to support the Northern Horse Show with this new award because all the profits go to the Riding for the Disabled Association which is a very worthwhile cause."

Alastair Hood riding Michael and Pearl Underwood's Royal Trooper put on a super display to catch the attention of judges.

Eleven-year-old Jessica and the 13hh show hunter pony champion Highmead Politician had excelled themselves earlier in the day and came out sparkling once again to take the 500 runner-up prize.

The showing season from their base near Halifax is a real family effort for the Goodyears with sister Trudy acting as chief groom.

Said mum Lynne: "We take each show as it comes and Jessica was quite nervous competing against the top adult riders. We were overjoyed to finish second in such good company."

In third place, Katie Moore, was deputising for owner Vanessa Ramm, who claimed the riding horse championship before having to head home on business.