Christine Cornege may have picked up the silver at the FEI Jumping World Challenge Final in Ecuador, but for the professional photographer from Cambridge it may as well be gold.
She’s hugely competitive and while she may have harboured aspirations of one day riding for her country, to have it become a reality and to make the podium is the stuff dreams are made of.
“It was an amazing experience,” says the 36-year-old mum of one. “I had no expectations but I did want to do well. Getting second exceeded all my expectations.”
Also wearing the silver fern was Mikayla Herbert who finished ninth overall with her borrowed stallion Contiki. “He’s young, very green to showjumping and is a police horse so the fact he happily carted me around four heavy days at 1.2m in a week is outstanding. I am coming home with a ribbon after having qualified for the final and completing every round . . . I couldn’t be happier!”
While she has in fact jumped in Europe as a 19-year-old, she had never been to South America before. Club Rancho San Francisco where the competition was hosted was in the middle of the very beautiful city of Quito. The riders were taken out one evening for a walking tour of the heritage part of the town where they saw cathedrals built in the 1500s.
But it was the horses they were here to do business with. Christine drew Palugo, a cool but spooky gelding who had jumped to 1.3m and then had a year off. “He had only been back in for four months but he was pretty straight forward. I felt very comfortable on him.”
They did four competitions. Christine was all clear in the A1 Welcome Stakes, had two rails in the first qualifier but still finished 10th. “I made the mistake of trying to ride him like my own horse!”
She placed second in the second qualifier and in the opening round of the final had a rail which saw her in fourth heading into the all-important second round. A clear round in the second saw her on the podium and heading home with a hotly-clutched silver medal in hand.
This year 21 riders from 16 nations competed in Ecuador with the Dominican Republic’s Giorgia Ieromazzo taking the crown with a brilliant double-clear performance. The FEI Jumping World Challenge Final was created in 2001 and is seen as a developmental competition that provides less experienced athletes from remote countries the opportunity to compete internationally.
Riders are only paired with their horses the day before the competition starts and then given just a 30-minute warm-up before a 15-minute arena familiarisation where they are allowed to jump just a handful of fences. Competition started with the Welcome Stakes, two qualifiers and then the final for the top 10 combinations or the Farewell class for the rest.
Once in the final, they all start from scratch, competing in reverse order of merit from their standings after the first two qualifiers.
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
3rd October 2019