Gemma Tattersall had a day to remember at the Chedington Bicton Park 5* Horse Trials: she not only won her first CCI5* in style on Chris and Lisa Stone’s Chilli Knight, but at the subsequent winner’s press conference, her boyfriend Gary Stevens seized the microphone to propose. Of course, she said yes!
Gemma had already become emotional as the magnitude of her victory gradually sunk in: she has known the 11-year-old chestnut gelding since he was born — he is by the Stones’ Badminton-winning Chilli Morning out of Kings Gem, a mare produced in East Devon by Mary King. “It’s been a long road, lots of hard work and a fabulous little horse,” she said.
It was the first all-girl line-up since Pippa Funnell led Pia Pantsu and Jeanette Brakewell at Badminton in 2003, and here was Pippa on the podium again, in second place after a beautiful clear showjumping round on Nick and Barbara Walkinshaw’s Billy Walk On. “I couldn’t fault him,” said a visibly delighted Pippa. “He couldn’t have done anything more.”
Piggy March, the heroine of cross-country day, hit two rails on Trevor Dickins’ Vanir Kamira, but such was the three female riders’ supremacy that she slid no lower than third and showed great grace in defeat, immediately congratulating Gemma.
“I can’t believe I’m sitting between these two legends of the sport,” said Gemma. “Pippa has been my heroine for ever and Piggy is just the best rider in the world.
“I never dared to dream. Before the showjumping, I tried to pretend that I was going into Ring 2 at Hickstead, which is my local event and where I jump day after day.”
The world champion Ros Canter showed she has another star in the making with fourth place on Pencos Royal Jewel, and Pippa was also fifth on Majas Hope. The men finally got a look in with Richard Jones, Oliver Townend, Padraig McCarthy and Tim Price filling sixth to ninth places, and Felicity Collins performed a beautiful clear round to rise two places to 10th and seal a perfect first five-star completion.
Riders heaped praise on Event Director Andrew Fell and his team for producing such a beautifully presented competition at just 11 weeks’ notice. Pippa said: “I think I speak for all the riders when I say how much we appreciate being back competing in front of spectators. You have made us raise our game.”
“Bicton has long deserved this level of competition,” commented Dr Geoffrey Guy, the owner of Chedington Estate in Dorset, which generously sponsored the Horse Trials. “Chedington is delighted for Gemma Tattersall and Chilli Knight who showed excellence in all three phases to claim the title.
“Chedington Equestrian is passionate about creating opportunities for horses and riders to train and compete under the best conditions and this weekend Bicton have provided an absolutely World Class setting for a very important fixture for horses and riders. Chedington is delighted to have played a part in this event and look forward to working with Bicton in the future to continue to be able to offer the highest calibre of events in the UK.”
British Eventing’s Chief Executive Officer and Event Advisor, Helen West added, “It gives me great pleasure to thank Bicton Arena, its sponsors, riders, owners, volunteers and all who have supported this one-off event. I know it was a huge challenge managing the only five-star competition in the UK this year and we are indebted to everyone for taking this on. It has been a wonderful weekend of competition and top-class sport.”
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