It’s all Chicks and Divas at the Team Quest finale
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The leading Team Quest riders gathered for the fifth annual Kent & Masters Quest Championships at the end of October for two days of hot competition which warmed the chilly conditions at Bury Farm, the hosts for the weekend.
North West team the Cheshire Chicks have been to all but one of the five Quest Championships so far and this year managed to go one better than their 2017 finish to take the Open title. Original team members Isobell Maughan and the British bred Cracking Opposition returned again to the Buckinghamshire venue alongside team mates Shona Rooney (Tobago Bay) and mother/daughter duo Corrie and Ciara Mclellan sharing Ballastra van de Cumul.
After day one, fine performances from all four team members gave them a clear advantage of nearly five and a half points over nearest rivals, Yorkshire’s Could B Rounder quartet of Samantha Duncan, Hannah Jolliffe, Amanda Snowden and Stephanie Thomson with the Norfolk Centreliners hot on their heels in third.
On Saturday night as a distraction of second day nerves, the Questers were treated to a great FEI Freestyle Pick Your Own competition, judged by List 1 trio Carole Thornton, Anita Darken and Debbie Wardle. This was a new format this year and tests ranged to the Junior Freestyle as chosen by 16 year old Jessica Mcconkey who rode her Junior European Championship Freestyle with Lady Gaga II up to Grand Prix – so the audience could see a range of tests at the upper levels. Louise Bell got the evening off to a start with a quick demo of the movements they were likely to see before Jessica got the competition underway.
It was Gareth Hughes who took the top honours eventually with the Kroll family’s gorgeous KK Dominant who was doing his firs Inter I Freestyle under lights. It was a polished performance which earned 74.21%, just ahead of Lousie Bell and Into the Blue who scored 73.46% with their Grand Prix. Completing the podium were past winners Joanna Thurman-Baker and Highcliffe Apollo who debuted their Grand Prix Freestyle for 73.17%. Fourth placed Nathalie Kayal is worthy of a mention for entering into the Quest Halloween spirit by performing with a spooky skeleton face painted on!
A chilly Sunday morning greeted everyone for the final day of competition with all team members riding at their chosen level for a second time but this time with extra pressure. Would the Cheshire Chicks hold their advantage? Could a team make a late surge up the leader board? One thing was certain, it’d go down to the wire.
All four Cheshire Chicks again rose to the challenge and certainly didn’t let any nerves show (if there were any!) as they all bettered their previous day scores – both Ciara and Shona broke the 71% barrier in Prelim 14 to widen the gap. Team Captain and main motivator Janet Maughan, mum of Isabelle, spurred them on by saying she wanted to bring a rug home having missed out last year so the incentive was laid out.
Behind them, things didn’t quite go to plan for the Could B Rounder crew and valuable marks were lost, opening the door for the Norfolk Centreliners to seize a podium place. Trained by Nerys Leer, the quartet of Natasha Reynolds, Kerry Lake, Joanna Mclean and Connor Sharpe fought off a late charge from the Too Cool to School team from Carmarthenshire who rose from eighth after day one to third with two of their riders bettering their previous scores by about 5%. It was very close though; just 0.09% separated the two!
So after five years of trying, Quackers, the Cheshire Chicks’ mascot, finally got to stand atop the Team Quest podium!
In the U21 battle, it was the familiar name of Connor Sharpe who led the way with his Dressage Divas. Connor rode Tomrilland
Billy as did team member Kate Joyce and they dominated the Intro classes with Connor taking the honours on Saturday, Kate on Sunday. The third member Megan Maclean partnered Cherrymount Rainbow and after a nervy start on Saturday for 61.74%, they brought their A game on Sunday and rode their best ever Intro test together to score 69.86% which clinched gold for the team by nearly 10% (pictured below).
After Saturday’s action, The Hornettes lay second with Daisy, Ottille and Hettie-Mae Horn all scoring well but they just couldn’t fend off the challenge from the Southern challengers, The Pocket Rockets who all had outstanding second rides to rise from ninth to runners up spot. Fi Grabham turned things around with her Intro performance, going 70%+ on Sunday, as did Tia Holland in the Prelim while Edward Daniell and Sophie Moss both scored over 68% in the final Novice.
The Derbyshire Young Riders, Tom and Lottie Dennett, Megan Lewcock and Jennifer Mottershead kept a firm grasp of third spot throughout and were all exceptionally consistent through their eight tests with scores between 66 and 69%.
Well done to all our teams – you really make the weekend a special one! A massive thank you to our generous sponsors Kent & Masters who’ve got right behind the competition from the onset and we loved seeing you all in your fabulous saddle cloths – may they bring you much luck. And a final thanks to the team at Bury Farm who make it all work – there were a few issues which were managed and plans and ideas are already flowing for 2019.
So, there’s a break of just five weeks and then we’re off and running with qualification for the 2019 regionals! Best of luck everyone…Bury Farm here we come!