Competition season is once again upon us and this weekend saw the start of the First Round of the Pancyprian Championship. And because this is one of our favourite times of the year, this week’s blog will kick off a two-part special, concentrating first on the competition itself and next week on the separate disciplines and our George’s Ranch hopefuls.
The first round of the Pancyprian Championship takes place from September through to December and anyone can be crowned champion, no matter their nationality. However, from January through to June the National Championship takes over and even though non-Cypriots can enter the competition they cannot take the coveted title of ‘Champion’ if they win. Therefore, though non-Cypriots may continue to ride to improve their rankings, and they may even finish the season as overall winners of their classes, they cannot be named Children, Junior or Senior National Champions. This honour is reserved only for Cypriots following a rule change last year. As a result, our very own Imogen was named the overall winner in her class last season, but she couldn’t be crowned Children’s Champion. This may seem unfair, but it is an anomaly that everyone at the Ranch fully accepts because, ultimately, these rules are designed to develop interest and participation in the sport on the island – and that can only benefit us all in the long run.
In actual fact, there are a number of new rules and regulations being introduced this season, with one of the biggest changes being a two-day show for each discipline every month. Previously it was one day devoted to dressage and one day devoted to jumping. Again, this change has its benefits because in order for the sport to develop here in Cyprus two days are more conducive to the progress of riders than one day. Unfortunately, because the shows are currently scattered around the island, and some stables – through no fault of their own – lack the kind of facilities needed for us to leave our horses overnight, it affects our ability to attend every show because we have to factor in the financial commitment involved as well as issues of transportation. Therefore, we will use this first section of the season to see what happens and how the island’s clubs cope with the change
In many respects, a more occasional appearance at the national competition this year suits us quite well as a club because many of our riders are starting to think long-term about their equestrian aims, ambitions and dreams. Whereas we used to concentrate on making every effort to attend the national competitions in order to accumulate the points needed to become national champions in our categories, this year we have a lot of riders interested in either pushing on with their training in order to compete at the highest level they can or riders who are more interested in saving their energy for the FEI competition later in the year. As some riders also have limited funds, some may choose to cherry pick the shows they wish to attend or limit themselves to competing in one discipline rather than two.
Without doubt, George’s Ranch will still be a presence at the national shows, but with the emphasis on individual plans, rather than the push for points and overall placings of previous years, we are looking at a far more personalised involvement. But we will be involved! Competitions play a valuable role in training as learning how to handle the pressure quite often strengthens the relationship between horse and rider. Our sports horses also need to experience these shows, if only to do what they were bought and trained for. Of course, the competitions are also tremendous fun and as our riders spend so much time training it’s nice for them to go out and show what they can do.
As fate would have it, we actually enjoyed a pre-show-season warm-up at the Ranch on Saturday, thanks to the weather disrupting our plans the previous weekend. In a hugely entertaining event, our younger and more inexperienced riders gave their all in a one-off spectacular, Dressage to Music. To the backdrop of a candlelit supper, it was a super experience for all involved. More spectator-friendly than traditional dressage shows, the event was not only musical, but colourful thanks to the huge efforts of our instructor Karen, our superb Ranchers and their ever-helpful parents who spent the best part of the last six months cutting discs and creating costumes for the event.
With all 16 competitors putting on a dazzling display of skill and creativity everyone went home a winner this weekend. However, for sheer technical ability I am delighted to say that Alexia won the Intro class on Overtime Magic, Hannah stormed to glory on Lily Milan in the Preliminary Juniors, Shirley and Elvis proved a winning combination in the Preliminary Seniors and it was a joint first place celebration in the Novice class with Karen delighting the crowds on Harry Spotter and Lana putting in a skilful performance on William. So well done, everyone!