Side by side on A to Z of hunts

The Lucy Glitters Sporting Tour is to go international next year now the two main heroines have completed the alphabet of hunts. Richard Clark

Katie Bloom and Jane Collins started the tour after a day out side-saddle hunting with the Atherstone Hunt three seasons ago.

Katie, from Wressle near Selby, and Jane, her yard manager, hunt regularly with the Middleton and spend the off-season showing at county level in hunter classes and ladies hunter side- saddle classes.

The tour, named after a character in Surtees' book Mr Sponge's Sporting Tour, was the eccentric idea of Katie after a good day with the Atherstone. Why not go through the full alphabet of hunts and ride them all side-saddle?

So the tour took them from the Atherstone to the Belvoir, Duke of Beauforts, Cottesmore, College Valley, Derwent, Essex and Fernie.

Then on to the Goathland, Holderness, Isle of Wight, Jed Forest, East Kent, Lincoln United Hunt Club and to their home pack, the Middleton.

The pair then chalked up side-saddle days with the North Northumberland, Oakley, Percy, Quorn, Royal Artillery, Sinnington, Tynedale, United and Vale of the White Horse hunts.

Finally, they visited Warwickshire, Exmoor, the closest they could get to X, York and Ainstey North and South and the Zetland.

Said Katie: "Three years ago, we were invited to a side-saddle hunting day with the Atherstone Hunt which was great fun. Once bitten by the bug, I decided visiting other packs may also be fun.

"After gaining confidence on taking on a few fences and different terrain, my over-active mind decided to try and work our way through the alphabet of hunts .

"To my knowledge, the task has never been completed before and certainly it has been great fun and a great experience."

Said Katie: "Having completed the alphabet we are now looking to hunt in Ireland, France, America and New Zealand, hopefully all side-saddle."

Brian Higham, stud groom at Badminton for the Duke of Beaufort's Hunt who hosted the girls for the day, said: "An elegant lady on a good-looking and good-moving horse is a sight to behold and enhances the prestige of any hunt and lends a good image for the hunting community.

"And as Jorrocks says in Surtees' books, it is a sight to take home and dream about."

Emma Richardson, secretary and sometimes field master of the Holderness said: "The last time girls visited us, the hounds met at Burton Constable Hall. It virtually transported you back in time to see two ladies riding side-saddle with the hall as a backdrop .

"Hounds hunted brilliantly that day but what stays in my mind was the sight of Katie and Jane successfully negotiating some of the largest drains in the Holderness country."

Titlington a success as events go down to the wire

The North East Driving Trials group have voted as a success their new venue at Titlington near Alnwick.

Competition attracted participants from Cheshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Durham, Teesside, Lincolnshire, Scotland and Northumberland.

Some competitions went down to the wire. The novice class saw a battle between local vet Rosie Mould and the eventual victor, Lincolnshire-based Steve Hoyle, with less than half-a-point between them at the finish.

Vicky Dawson, with one of four double clears overall in the cones, was clear winner of novice horse and Wendy Ellis was 25 points clear of her nearest rival to take the pre novice.

Judy Hilditch, of Flockton, near Wakefield, fresh from her third place success at Sandringham, added the best dressage and marathon performance of the entire event to a double clear in the cones to take the open pony.

The open horse class had eight entries and less than four points separated them all at the end after the lead switched from Susan Henry after dressage to eventual winner Paul Stringer following the cones and the marathon.

David Calvert, of Richmond, in the pairs, provided the entertainment when he got stuck in the water obstacle on the marathon. It took him three minutes of reinbacks and voice commands to get clear. Fastest rider through the obstacle was Brian Cairns, who took 32 seconds.

The pairs class was won by John Stafford and the combined teams and tandems went to Pat Cooper.

The NEDTG next compete at Wykeham near Scarborough on July 30-31.

Ellen's Italian delight

Ellen Whitaker has made it into the final four-strong British show-jumping team for next week's European Championships in Italy.

From an original squad of five riders, British team manager Derek Ricketts has named the final four representatives.

They are William Funnell, riding Cortaflex Mondriaan, Nick Skelton, on Arko III, Michael Whitaker with Portofino 63 and the 19-year-old Ellen from Barnsley with AK Locarno 62.

Ellen's uncle, John Whitaker, and Exploit de Roulard will travel with the team to San Patrignano as reserve.

One of the youngest ever riders to compete in a senior European Championship, Ellen said: "I am very, very pleased. I could barely contain myself when I heard I would be jumping at the Europeans, although, it means the pressure is now on for me to perform on the day. My horse is looking and feeling really well, so I'm hoping he'll do the business."

Despite being comparatively short of the years of experience held by her more senior team-mates, Ellen's impressive performances on this year's Nations Cup teams have been reminiscent of a world-class rider double her age. Super League victory in Rome and a double clear in the French round, combined with her unfaltering commitment, make her place on the team well deserved.

Ellen will compete alongside Nick Skelton and her uncle, Michael Whitaker, who have continued to carry the flag for British show-jumping during their pursuit of the world's biggest titles. Nick and his brilliant stallion Arko III remain one of the most talented combinations on the international show-jumping circuit and earlier this year headed the Western European league of World Cup qualifiers.

Derek Ricketts commented: "Next week will be a big challenge as there are some very good teams taking part, namely Germany, France and Sweden.

"However, I believe our team is as strong as ever this year and I'm very hopeful that we can finish in the medals."

The 2005 European Championships are being held between July 21 and 24 at San Patrignano in Italy.

This is a unique venue which hosts the largest drug rehabilitation centre in Europe, where part of the recovery programme is to enable young people to find an empathy with horses which enables them to gain back their self-confidence and self-esteem.