Paul Barker is crowned Winter 1.35m Champion at the British Showjumping Spring Championships

Saturday 23 March 2024

Paul Barker is crowned Winter 1.35m Champion at the British Showjumping Spring Championships

Paul Barker landed the top-billed Winter 1.35m Grand Prix from the front at the British Showjumping Spring Championships at Arena UK, Grantham, with Green Grass.

Twenty-eight competitors bid for the title over a 12-fence track cleverly designed by Nigel Jess and the subtle questions meant poles fell everywhere on the course.  Only five found the key to access the jump-off with Paul drawn first.

But he turned the less favoured draw to his advantage, utilising Green Grass’s carefulness and bravery with daring tight turns.  Lynne Barker’s home-bred 12-year-old Luidam x Grandeur stallion responded to every question, flying the final vertical with a flourish for Paul to set a sizzling – and unbeatable – target, claiming more than two seconds in hand.

Jessica Howard raised temperatures as she gave it her best shot on her day one 1.35m winner Manderville Crescendo and beat the time by more than a second, but her leg caught the penultimate wing to dislodge the pole and her hopes faded fast. 

Paul became the first recipient of the Lesley McNaught Memorial Trophy, in memory of the Olympic medallist who sadly passed away at the end of last year.

Placed at HOYS in the three-star international classes last October, Green Grass then had a break and didn’t return to competition until January, immediately picking up second in Kelsall Hill’s Winter Classic Grand Prix and third in the Cheshire venue’s 2* 1.35m the following week.  

“He jumped abroad with John [Whitaker] earlier in the year and so we gave him an easy time while I concentrated on the youngsters at home,” said Paul, who has several promising youngstock by Green Grass.

Yorkshire filled the top two places as Jessica Hewitt slotted Arbitrage into second place 2.36 seconds behind Paul with Michaela Scott also posting a double clear for third on Eddie G Z.

Rhyleigh Kendle scored her biggest senior championship win with victory in the Winter Five-year-old Final aboard the speedy yet neat Comme Il Coeur Z. 

“She’s hot but unbelievably talented, that’s what makes her so special, she’s like no other horse I’ve ridden,” she said.

Eleven from the original field of 27 cleanly negotiated the 11-fence 1.10m track and the jump-off was competitive from the off with quality and talent abound.  It was all about the clock as eight provided double clears, but Rhyleigh took advantage of her quick-minded mare to snatch the win from mid-draw by 0.61 seconds.

Ronnie Jones claimed second place with Fantastico (Fantaland x Landeur) with early leader Daniel Moseley in third aboard Lisa Hales’s SFS Getaway (Escape Z x Arko).

Norfolk-based Rhyleigh, 21, bought this mare with enviable breeding – by Comme Il Faut 5 and out of a Vigaro mare tracing back to Tangelo van De Zuuthoeve – from trainer Jake Saywell and Saywell Equestrian as an unbacked three-year-old.  But things didn’t go to plan last year as Ryleigh underwent a hip operation due to injury.

“Millie Tagg or my brother [Archie] competed her while I was recovering.  It took 12 months of physio to get back to where I was and have confidence in myself,” said Rhyleigh, who admitted to: “Pushing myself too far and having a setback.”

The pair are now jumping double clears at Discovery and Newcomers level.

“She’s so brave.  Hot, you’ve got be on it with her, although she’s been quite calm at this show, and she’s so neat and careful,” added Rhyleigh.  “I’ve had a few offers for her, but I keep saying no – and having done everything with her from the start makes this win even more special.” 

 
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