Modest Hopkinson quick to appreciate high quality of competition at Olympia

FOURTH on last year’s debut at just 18 years of age – Womersley’s Sally Hopkinson is doing her best to play down her obvious chances in next week’s Under-23 final at Olympia.

Sally Hopkinson
Sally Hopkinson

Yet there’s no hiding the excitement surrounding potentially the biggest moment of her career – swiftly followed by Christmas and a 19th birthday on New Year’s Eve.

Pontefract-born Hopkinson is one of seven Yorkshire riders bidding for glory at next Friday’s Under-23 British Championship Final at The London International Horse Show. And on paper few hold a stronger chance than rising star Hopkinson, who was a fantastic fourth on her first attempt at Under-23 glory aged just 17 in 2012.

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One year on, Hopkinson and 13-year-old Theunis are back for more with the Yorkshire star, who is on British Showjumping’s Excel Talent Programme, also now a member of Great Britain’s Young Rider Team.

Hopkinson’s 2013 highlight came when helping Team GB to silver at the Nations Cup competition in Bonheiden, Belgium back in May. Yet that achievement could well be topped next Friday – with the Under-23 final falling five days before Christmas and 11 days before Hopkinson’s 19th birthday.

The former Wakefield Independent School star is keeping a level head as her second Under-23 championship at Olympia dawns – but there is no denying that for Hopkinson these are potentially thrilling times.

“It’s quite an exciting month,” girl of the moment Hopkinson told the Yorkshire Post this week.

“Obviously there’s Olympia on and then it’s Christmas and then it’s straight to New Year’s Eve when it’s my birthday! I’m not too sure what we’re doing yet for my birthday – we might be having a family party at home. Then it’s the start of the new year!

“Olympia is one of the biggest competitions there is in England and the crowds come pouring in.

“There’s a great atmosphere and it’s just a fun Christmas show as well.

“And it was certainly a good Christmas present last year being able to get fourth.

“It gets you in the spirit of Christmas anyway!

“There’s good money all the way down.”

Hopkinson admits she had no idea what to expect last year but her 2012 fourth-placed finish has put her firmly on the radar.

Yet the teenage star insists she is not feeling any pressure with Hopkinson acknowledging that she is up against a stellar field at Olympia.

“Coming fourth last year was really good,” said Hopkinson, who first competed at Olympia aged 10 when partnered by Rob Whitaker in a Mini Major event.

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect last year to be honest because it can go either way can’t it and it’s just whatever happens on the day.

“It was quite a strong competition as well and I was really happy with how it went.

“I’ve got more experience of the bigger tracks now and I have jumped abroad quite a bit this year just to see what it is like over there and do a bit more with Theunis and my other horses.

“Maybe everyone will be looking out for me after last year, but then everyone has got some good results this year and maybe they weren’t jumping at that level last year. It could be anyone’s really.

“I’m quite confident but also nervous because you never know really what’s going to happen on the day. It’s a very exciting time anyway.”

Exciting also for Yorkshire with Hopkinson part of a White Rose county super septet, all bidding for under-23 glory.

The former Inglebrook School pupil will be joined by fellow Yorkshire aces Stephen Crosby, Jessica Hewitt, Laura Robinson, Scarlett Ward, Thomas Whitaker and Joe Clayton. Hopkinson expects big things from Clayton in particular with the rider who has 15 horses at her Darrington stables beaming with pride at Yorkshire’s strength in depth.

“Having seven there is proof that there are some good riders coming around from Yorkshire isn’t it?” said Hopkinson, whose mum and dad, Richard and Jayne, have experience in competing in showjumping and dressage respectively.

“Obviously I know all of the other riders as well – the results they have been getting and where they are at.

“I would say probably Joe would be the strongest one going as he’s got a lot of experience at these sort of shows. I’m sure he’ll be in with a good shout.”

Assessing her own chances and no doubt exciting future, Hopkinson added: “Hopefully, I can do better than last year or equally as good and then next year step up a level and then do a few more international shows abroad.

“I’m still on the Excel Talent Programme at the minute which finishes soon and hopefully I will gain qualification for that. I have all the big dreams – the same as anyone else – but obviously you have to put everything into perspective don’t you. I’d just like to do the best I can.”

Park group celebrates following bumper year of fund-raising

THE Stockeld Park group of Riding for the Disabled has been celebrating both its 40th anniversary and a bumper year of fund raising.

The annual sponsored ride, held at Bramham Park in June, raised just over £7,000, exceeding all expectations.

Nick and Rachel Lane Fox, from Bramham Park, visited the group recently to present trophies to the riders who raised the most money.

The late George Lane Fox was a great supporter of the sponsored ride and a new trophy in his memory, the George Lane Fox Memorial Cup, went to Pippa Noyes, a long-standing volunteer with the group, who raised £630.

Other cups went to Vicky Robinson, who raised £525 and one of the younger riders, Kate Hey, 13, who raised £128.

This year the ride was supported by the law firm Irwin Mitchell.

The money raised will go towards helping the group continue its riding lessons for children with physical and learning difficulties from four local schools, West Oaks and St John’s School for the Deaf in Boston Spa and The Forest School and Springwater School in Knaresborough.

Yorkshire dressage stars Lottie Fry, Maisie Scruton and Ryan Todd finished in fine form at Roosendal CDI in Holland last weekend with Fry topping every class she entered.

Riding Leslie Connor’s KWPN gelding, Remming, Driffield-based Fry won the Junior Individual test with an outstanding score of 74.079 per cent – almost three per cent above the rest of the class.

Hull-based Maisie Scruton, on her own 16-year-old mare Hot Chocolate 43, grabbed fifth with 68.114 per cent.

Fry attained her third win and highest score of the week, 74.125 per cent in the Junior Freestyle.

Reflecting on her week away, a delighted Fry said: “The atmosphere at Roosendal was electric and, although Remming felt very hot, he rose to the occasion and everything just seemed to fall in to place.”

Fry and Remming’s travel partners, Scruton and Hot Chocolate, also achieved their best score of the week, breaking the 70 per cent barrier and taking fifth place (70.042 per cent).

And in last Saturday’s Young Riders Freestyle, Halifax-based Todd finished fourth on his family’s 12-year old gelding, Charlex Eskebjerg, with an impressive 70.542 per cent.