Emsley caps her stunning rise with win at Hickstead

Alice Emsley
Alice Emsley
Have your say

THE 2013 Hickstead Derby marked the arrival of Yorkshire’s new brigade of talent.

As well as the strong emergence of Huddersfield’s Joe Clayton, the new generation of Whitakers are coming to the fore – and so isa girlfriend of one of them.

Alice Emsley is the girlfriend of Huddersfield showjumping ace George Whitaker, who competed in his first Hickstead Derby last week.

But as well as cheering on her other half, 19-year-old Emsley, who is also Whitaker’s groom, was enjoying success of her own in the ring by winning the Russells Mobile Catering British 1.25m Open Jumping Derby.

Emsley, born in Dewsbury, admittedly has a showjumping background of her own and the teenager and her now boyfriend were present together as seven-year-olds at local Yorkshire shows.

But while the next generation of Whitakers naturally grew into a blossoming jumping career, for Emsley a long-term dream of competing competitively never looked like being fulfilled. Until now that is.

The former Whitcliffe Mount High School pupil was handed the opportunity to ride Ian Whitaker’s Fireflys Tobantos at Hickstead and has not looked back since.

“I rode when I was younger and I was always trying my best on my ponies,” Emsley told the Yorkshire Post.

“But we never had the financial backing to get out there and travel to all these shows.

“But through George I have been given the chance to ride this horse and I have just got better and better really.

“I started at the beginning of this year and the first couple of shows I went to I got a second and a fourth. I think everyone was a bit shocked that I was doing so well. So George then said ‘do you want to go to Hickstead?’

“To be able to go and jump was great but then when I won I was completely over the moon. I’ve been a few times watching and helping my friends and mates but never anything like this.”

Emsley’s success capped a fine week at Hickstead for Yorkshire with Clayton – George Whitaker’s cousin –finishing a brilliant sixth in the Hickstead Derby on Ingliston Twister.

Whitaker himself was a fine 15th on Glenavadra Brilliant while Joe Whitaker and Doncaster’s James Hughes also gained valuable Hickstead experience. As did Emsley, who now has a showjumping bug that she’s unwilling to let go.

Similarly, the ride on her winning Hickstead partner is not something Emsley will relent from easily, though it appears the combination are destined to be a permanent fixture in the months that follow.

“I’m going to try and do a few bigger shows now,” said Emsley, who recently finished English, media and film studies at Leeds City College and now works full-time in Whitaker’s yard. “But I wouldn’t know what events really – it’s just whatever these guys do. George used to ride the horse that I won on and he did a few big classes quite a few years ago but then the horse started going a bit lame.

“He let him have a little bit of time off and then when I started riding him George said ‘well he obviously goes better for you’ so I am allowed to keep him.

“It’s good because he has already done some big ones so I know he can do it.”

And so too can Emsley. Asked how it feels to be a Hickstead winner, Emsley laughed: “I guess I am a Hickstead winner and I’ve got to say it feels very, very good actually. It’s fantastic.”

Mad Dogs shine along with sunshine as hundreds watch polo triumph at Toulston

OVER 700 people basked in glorious sunshine to witness Sunday’s finals of the Ogden of Harrogate Armada Dish and Silver Jubilee Cup competitions at Toulston Polo Ground.

The fiercely fought finals saw Mad Dogs beat Dundee and Perth 5 1/2–1 with the home team - the Leolene Lions - narrowly defeated by half a chukka by Summit, who emerged triumphant 5 1/2-5.

The tournament marked the centenary of the ground and 120th anniversary of sponsors Ogden of Harrogate.

Associate sponsors and luxury watch brand Ebel provided a stunning Onde watch for the prize draw which was won by Ian Bennett of Blubberhouses.

Ben Ogden of Ogden of Harrogate enthused: “We have a longstanding association with the polo at Toulston, which is the biggest tournament of its kind in the north of England. It was fantastic to see so many people enjoying the sport.”

RIDERS aged five to over 70 enjoyed a ride through Bramham Park while also raising money for the Stockeld Park Riding for the Disabled group. The group is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and holds an annual sponsored ride in the park, courtesy of the Lane Fox family.

Over 120 riders took part with a few doing the short route of about six miles within the park but the majority took the longer option of 11 miles which included further tracks and bridleways outside the park. The day raised over £6,500 for the group, helped by sponsorship from law firm Irwin Mitchell.

*THE Pendle Hunt are counting down the days to their pleasure ride in the Yorkshire Dales on Saturday, July 6 (10am-12noon). Starting from Kilnsey Trekking Centre, the ride will be six or seven miles long over amazing scenery with stunning views of Kilnsey Crag and limestone pavement. There is some hill work, trots and canters, mostly over private land. The cost is £15 per horse and rider on the day. There is also a BBQ and refreshments available. To book a place contact Jane on 07836 643375, Michelle on 07801 516658 or Kilnsey Trekking Centre on 01756 752861.